Ice Age Fossils Found in Wyoming Cave

Analysis of specimens underway, and some might date back 100K years

By John Johnson,  Newser Staff

Posted Aug 9, 2014 8:36 AM CDT

(Newser) – It's called the Natural Trap Cave for a reason: The 15-foot-wide hole in the Bighorn Mountains of Wyoming is all but impossible to see until it's too late, and animals have been falling to their deaths there for eons. But what was bad news for them is great news for paleontologists who completed their first exploration of the 85-foot-deep cave yesterday, reports the Argyll Free Press. They found hundreds of fossils of creatures big and small that roamed the land 25,000 years ago, and perhaps much earlier.

“We found evidence of bison, a bit of gray wolf, and quite a lot of cheetah and horse,” a researcher from Des Moines University tells Reuters. They also found even more fossils from smaller animals such as birds and snakes, and pending analysis should shed light on life before the last Ice Age. The cold, damp conditions have preserved the bones remarkably well. "It's an incredible site," a Bureau of Land Management paleontologist tells AP, adding that some specimens might go back 100,000 years. A bigger dig will take place next year, and the cave's opening will be locked with a metal grate until then.

This image provided by the Bureau of Land Management shows the interior of the Natural Trap Cave in north-central Wyoming.
This image provided by the Bureau of Land Management shows the interior of the Natural Trap Cave in north-central Wyoming.   (AP Photo/Bureau of Land Management)
Researchers collect samples for analysis inside the Natural Trap Cave.
Researchers collect samples for analysis inside the Natural Trap Cave.   (AP Photo/Bureau of Land Management)
Bureau of Land Management cave specialist Bryan McKenzie rappels into the Wyoming cave.
Bureau of Land Management cave specialist Bryan McKenzie rappels into the Wyoming cave.   (AP Photo/Bureau of Land Management)
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