In October 2010, a bulldozer operator working in Snowmass Village at Ziegler Reservoir uncovered the tusk of a juvenile female mammoth. Over the next 10 months, the Denver Museum of Nature & Science conducted its largest-ever fossil excavation called Snowmastodon. The Snowmastodon dig yielded a treasure trove of well-preserved Ice Age fossils.
Museum crews uncovered more than 6,000 megafauna bones and 30,000 small animal bones of 52 species of Ice Age vertebrate animals, including remains of 4 Columbian mammoths, 36 American mastodons, as well as Jefferson's ground sloths, camels, deer, horse, and giant bison. Other animal bones found at the site include: tiger salamander, frog, snake, lizard, duck, goose, grouse, trout, weasel, otter, black bear, mouse and more. Approximately 100 species of plants including grasses, herbs, flowers, shrubs, and trees were recovered from the Ziegler Reservoir fossil site along with over 100 species of invertebrates such as fresh water mollusks and insects. The plant and invertebrate species recovered from the site have provided a unique understanding of the ecology of the area during the last interglacial period. The preserved remains of almost an entire high altitude Ice Age fossil ecosystem are one of the most significant fossil discoveries ever made in Colorado.
Four dozen scientists from over 20 different institutions have conducted research on the geology, flora and fauna found at the Ziegler Reservoir so far. Their findings have provided scientific information about past climatic changes, and important insights into the biogeography of plants and animals within the Rocky Mountains 100,000 years ago. This discovery in Snowmass Village has forever changed the understanding of alpine life during the Ice Age.
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