Camels in Colorado?  

Yep. Along with mammoths and muskrats, sloths and salamanders, bison and beavers, plus mastodons of every age and stage. Bones of these beings and more–some 4,517 in total from 20 different creatures–have been unearthed in recent weeks near Snowmass. You can learn much more about this amazing big dig–fittingly titled the Snowmastodon Project by the Denver Museum of Nature & Science–at

As for the short story: this fast-paced paleontological project was set in motion last October when one of the heavy equipment operators excavating Zeigler Reservoir “saw bones tumble over the top of his bulldozer blade (DMNS).” Museum pros and trained volunteers were ready to roll when spring thaw arrived, making each minute of their seven-week search count.

Recognizing the significance of the project, The National Geographic Society awarded it a $55,000 grant. The “fossil find” will be featured in an upcoming issue of their magazine and will be broadcast next year in a National Geographic/NOVA special on PBS.

While work last Friday brought a halt to the hunt, Museum teams have much to do in terms of scientific classification, DNA studies and more. Calling it a “treasure trove” and an “incredibly well-preserved site,” excavation leader Dr. Kirk Johnson notes, “Our work to really understand these findings and maximize the site’s scientific value is just beginning.”

Crews are already back at work on the new reservoir, but a few members of the Museum team are close by should more fossils find their way to the surface.

So, to my poet friend Ginny–who volunteered to remove nasal deposits from a mastodon sinus cavity 😉 –and this marvelous museum of which we Rocky Mountain residents are incredibly proud–thanks.

You make high-country history live.

Photo:  (c) 2011 Denver Museum of Nature and Science.  Printed with permission.  Josh Smith, Bryan Small, Becky Benzie, Joe Sertich and Steve Mohr work to move a mastodon pelvis in its jacket. (Issued  6/7/2011)


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