NUN CHO GA: The story of a mummified baby woolly mammoth found in the Yukon Territory

Nun cho ga

Wednesday, May 29, 2024

6:00 p.m.

Mueller Center

Hot Springs, SD

This is a free event; however, reservations are required due to limited seating.

Jeffrey Bond, Mammoth Terrain (presenter)

Debbie Nagano, Tr’ondëk Hwëch’in First Nation

Grant Zazula, Palaeontologist, Yukon Government

Elizabeth Hall, Assistant Palaeontologist, Yukon Government

A mummified baby woolly mammoth (Mammuthus primigenius) was discovered in the Klondike region of Yukon, Canada in the summer of 2022. This is the best preserved North American mammoth yet discovered, owing to its rapid burial and permafrost preservation, and is of similar quality to the exceptional specimens from Siberia such as Lyuba and Dima. Placer gold miners made the discovery while mechanically stripping frozen Pleistocene sediments that overlies the valley-bottom, gold-bearing gravel on Eureka Creek. The discovery and rapid recovery of Nun cho ga was made possible because of the strong relationship between Yukon government scientists and the mining industry. This collaboration has also allowed a detailed record of the stratigraphic, paleoecological and geological setting of the site.

The mammoth was appropriately named by the Tr’ondëk Hwëch’in First Nation, Nun cho ga, meaning ‘Big animal baby’ in the Hän language. They have also assumed a guardianship role of this mammoth, and importantly, introduced Indigenous spirituality to the discovery.

This talk will detail the discovery of Nun cho ga, our current understanding of the mammoth, the landscape it inhabited, and its mechanism of preservation. Importantly it will highlight how the Tr’ondëk Hwëch’in First Nation is guiding Nun cho ga’s future and providing leadership for the care of ancient animals. Finally, a summary of the ongoing research collaboration will be outlined, along with our plan to leave a legacy of inspiration for future generations.

Jeffrey Bond, MSc

Jeffrey Bond is a surficial geologist and former manager with the Yukon Geological Survey (YGS). Over the past 27 years with the YGS, Mr. Bond had the privilege of exploring many remote corners of Yukon in his goal to unravel its recent geological history. Bond’s research projects have spanned both the glaciated and unglaciated landscapes in the Territory. Projects have included reconstructing glacial history, mapping surficial geology and understanding soil genesis. Over the last 11 years Bond shifted his focus towards Yukon placer geology and was responsible for documenting the geology at more than 160 placer gold mines. In a “right place at the right time” turn of events, Bond played a leading role in the recovery of the baby mammoth and has subsequently led the geological investigation of the site. In September 2023 Mr. Bond retired from the Yukon Geological Survey and initiated a business called Mammoth Terrain. The company’s focus is on prospecting, consulting, and science communication. Mr. Bond completed his BSc in physical geography at the University of Calgary and holds an MSc in geomorphology from the University of Alberta.