A gold miner working in the Yukon discovered something amazing. The miner found a wolf pup that has been estimated at 57,000 years old that still has its fur. Researchers estimate the wolf pup lived for six or seven weeks in an underground den before the den collapsed around her. The only reason the ancient wolf pup is so well preserved is that the den collapsed surrounding her in frigid permafrost.
The pup was named Zhùr, which means “wolf” in the Hän language. Zhùr is exceptionally well preserved with details of the face and lips and tiny claws still on each paw. The wolf is covered in ginger-colored fur, providing a very clear look at what the wolf pup would’ve looked like when alive tens of thousands of years ago.
The creature roamed the Earth when woolly mammoths were common, and many species around when the wolf was living are now extinct. Zhùr was first discovered in 2016 by a fourth-generation placer miner (placer mining is a type of gold mining) named Neil Loveless. Placer mining uses water and gravity rather than chemicals and aims giant water cannons at cliffs of permafrost.
The water cannons thaw the permafrost and thaws out the sediment (in this case, the sediment is gold) between the rocks, which falls to the ground below. While using the mining technique, the cannons are turned off a few times a day, and miners walk around looking for fossils, which are commonly found during mining operations. Loveless initially thought the creature was a piece of moss, so he kicked it, later realizing it was the remains of an animal, which he believed was a puppy.
He reached out to a paleontologist in the local area and stored the creature in the freezer. The pup was dated to over 50,000 years old using hair follicles. Zhùr was found to have a genetic match to a group of wolves from North America and Eurasia that lived between 86,700 and 67,500 years ago and isn’t related to modern wolves that roam the area today.