Dinosaur-age bones unearthed in Yukon's Peel River area
Two bones, estimated to be about 65 million years old, were discovered earlier this spring: one of a duck-billed dinosaur and another of a creature that's either a crocodile or turtle.
"We knew right away it was the first dinosaur bones found in the Yukon in over 40 years," David Evans, an associate curator of vertebrate paleontology with the Royal Ontario Museum, told reporters in Whitehorse on Monday.
The discovery was made on the very last night of a second search expedition his team made along the Peel River, following days of bad weather and bugs.
"It's a bit surreal to be collecting a fossil at midnight," he said. "You can only do that in the North, yeah."
In addition to the bones, Evans said his team also found ancient plant fossils that will help uncover details about the Yukon's climate millions of years ago.
Dinosaur bones hard to find
The Yukon is known for its rich Ice Age history, with remains found of mammoths and giant beavers. Signs of dinosaurs, however, have been extremely hard to find in the territory.
The latest discovery adds to the three dinosaur bones currently in the Yukon's collection, bringing the total to five.
"I'm thrilled and I'll be thrilled for a while," said Grant Zazula, a paleontologist with the Yukon government.
"To have some bones to be able to take to an elementary school and show them that this is a 65 million-year-old turtle or a 65 million-year-old dinosaur — kids are going to do backflips when they see this stuff."
Although the two new bones are the first to be found in the Yukon in a long time, Evans said they are not likely to be the last. His team plans to continue searching along the Yukon-N.W.T. border next summer.
"There's actually probably a much greater potential for it here than one might think," he said.
"It's just a matter of getting the right eyes looking on the ground to find these things."