Excavation Of Ice-Age Fossils, Race Against Time

Fossil Bed Discovery Now Largest High-Elevation Find Ever In North America

Every day, paleontologists find something new in a lake bed above Snowmass Village, including huge bones from Mammoths and giant Bison that roamed the Rockies thousands of years ago.

Scientists are coming to Ziegler Reservoir from around the world for what is now the largest high-elevation ice-age fossil bed ever discovered in North America.

"Every time we're here, we find more amazing things," said Kirk Johnson, paleontologist with the Denver Museum of Nature and Science. "Everything in this lake is older than 50,000 years and younger than 150,000-years-old. It's a complete rock pile bone bed."

"This is the biggest thing I've ever done, and I may never do something this big again," said paleontologist Ian Miller.

Just this week paleontologists unearthed a mastodon's pelvic bone, a mastodon's curving ivory tusk and the claw of a Jefferson's ground sloth.

The mega find was discovered last October by a bulldozer driver working on the expansion of Ziegler Reservoir.

"This lake may give us the first good climate record for the Rocky Mountains," said Johnson.

The dig is a race against time because the expansion of the reservoir is imminent.

"We have until July 1 to clear the site," said Johnson.

"We're shoveling like crazy," said Miller. "Oh man, this is as good as it gets. It's actually my birthday today so I can't think of anything better to do than to dig bones out of this place."

The fossils will be cured and put on display at the Denver Museum of Nature and Science.

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