North

Wolf pup more than 50,000-years-old on display in Whitehorse

The mummified wolf pup will go back into storage until a permanent exhibit is built at the Yukon Beringia Interpretive Centre. In the meantime, scientists will do more test on the pup to learn more about its diet and DNA.

Last chance to see the mummified pup Friday until a permanent display is finished at the Beringia Centre

Mummified remains of an ice age wolf pup (est. 50,000 yrs.) found near Dawson City, Yukon, in July 2016. (Government of Yukon)

The mummified wolf pup found near Dawson City more than two years ago made a very brief appearance in Whitehorse Friday.

It was on display at the Yukon Beringia Interpretive Centre between 2 and 5 p.m. Elizabeth Hall, assistant paleontologist with the Yukon Government, was on hand to answer questions. 

The pup, found frozen in permafrost by a miner in July 2016, is beyond the range of radio carbon dating, meaning it is more than 50,000 years old, Hall said. The pup is remarkably well-preserved, with fur, skin and muscle tissue intact. 

Hall said the pup is significant both scientifically and culturally. 

"She's a very important find. She's probably the only wolf-pup mummified remains in the whole entire world that we know of so far." 

The frozen wolf pup was sent to the Canadian Conservation Institute in Ottawa to be dried and brushed out before returning to the territory. (Government of Canada/Canadian Conservation Institute)

Hall said the pup will eventually go on permanent display at the Beringia Centre, likely next winter. She said the centre is building a display to house the pup and the mummified caribou that was found a month before the wolf pup. 

The mummified animals were previously on display at the Danoja Zho Cultural Centre in Dawson City. Hall said the caribou is not as easy to transport as the wolf pup, and will likely not go on display in Whitehorse before the permanent exhibit is completed.

Ongoing research

Hall said when the miner found the wolf pup, he very smartly put it in the freezer to preserve it until Yukon paleontologists were able to investigate it. They sent it the Canadian Conservation Institute in Ottawa, where the pup was thawed, dried out and brushed out.

Mummified remains of an ice age caribou calf, found near Dawson City, Yukon, in 2016. (Government of Canada/Canadian Conservation Institute)

Hall said no chemicals were used to preserve the pup, which makes it easier to test. An X-ray of the pup determined she was female and about two months old when she died. DNA testing will also be done to learn more about the species. 

"We've also sent off samples for stable isotope analysis which will also tell us about her diet." 

Hall said the pup would have already been weaned and eating food. 

"That will be interesting to see what she was eating."

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