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Mummified wolf pup

23 December 2020

At https://phys.org/news/2020-12-ancient-wolf-pup-mummy-uncovered.html … water is used to blast Alaskan muck by gold mining operations. This one is in the  Yukon rather than Alaska but it was all part of the same process of muck formation by huge tsunami waves at the end of the last Ice Age. Gold mining in the Yukon long ago ran out of gold nuggets in gravel in rivers easily explored by human hands. Gold appears to lie beneath the wider sections of river but the problem has always been the muck, a conglomeration of ice, tree branches and mangled trunks, as well as vegetation of all kinds, and animals – in parts rather than as whole specimens. The muck is solidified by ice and difficult to move out of the way. Using heavy jets of water appears to be one of the ways to wash the stuff away – and get at the gold below. It seems they unearthed a wolf pup in situ while in the process of using jets of water. It was mummified. Only its eyes were missing. It looks as if it was snuggled up in its den, sealed in the frozen muck. It was obviously buried extremely quickly, as it would have been by a tsunami wave. It is so well preserved. It must have died instantaneously at the point of burial. Questions remain. Was the pup alone in the den or have its siblings being washed away. Another interesting point discovered in the study was that she was being fed on salmon. It is a rich source of nutrients. She also belonged to a variety of wolf common not just to Alaska and the Yukon but to Siberia and Russia. 

The gold mining company has promised to keep an eye out for further finds of animal remains. Local museums are already probably at saturation point in them but whole specimens are prized. Hopefully Robert will be along presently to some more links. It is also amazing that gold has been mined in the region for such a long time, beginning in the 19th century gold rush.

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