"It's so cute" is not a typical reaction upon finding a 50,000-year-old dead animal, yet it's hard to argue with paleontologist Grant Zazula's assessment. With pristine muscle, skin, and fur, the complete mummified wolf pup, believed to have died around eight weeks old, looks as though it's resting. In a sense, it had been until it was unearthed in Yukon, Canada, in the summer of 2016. It was actually the second such discovery by gold miners near Dawson City. A month earlier, on property owned by Gold Rush star Tony Beets, the well-preserved front half of a caribou calf was discovered in an area home to an 80,000-year-old ash bed, left behind from ice age volcanoes. With both specimens carbon-dated to more than 50,000 years ago, "we think this is some of the oldest mummified soft tissue in the entire world," Zazula tells the CBC.
The "spectacular" pup is also thought to be the only mummified ice age wolf ever found, according to a release. "It's got the cute little paws and tail and the curled upper lip showing its teeth," Zazula tells the Canadian Press. "Once in a while we find remains of ice-age voles or squirrels," he adds. "This is very, very rare." Looking for clues about the animals' diets and ancient environment, researchers plan to do genetic testing on the "world-class" specimens, which have "garnered a great deal of international scientific interest," per the release. But the public can study them, too. Accepted by the Canadian Conservation Institute, the remains will be displayed in Dawson City until the end of September. They will then be moved to Yukon’s capital of Whitehorse for viewing. (In Utah, property owners found an Ice Age-era horse.)