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Tsiigehtchic Steppe Bison Discovery Update

Museum Alive! Open House

Yellowknife (June 27, 2008) – In September of 2007, Tsiigehtchic resident Shane Van Loon discovered animal remains unlike any he had seen before eroding from the side of a hill beside the Arctic Red River.The remains were of a steppe bison, which became extinct at the end of the last Ice Age about 10,000 years ago. Steppe bison were much larger relatives of modern bison, the Tsiigehtchic steppe bison has a horn-span of about 1 meter across. In addition to being the first undisturbed discovery of a steppe bison in the Northwest Territories (NWT), the remains are exciting because they were well-preserved by the permafrost of the area, and include soft tissues that are not often intact in remains of that age.

“The Tsiigehtchic steppe bison is one of the most interesting fossil discoveries made in the Northwest Territories. It will allow us to better understand what it was like here when glaciers first disappeared from the land.” said Tom Andrews, NWT Territorial Archaeologist with the Prince of Wales Northern Heritage Centre (PWNHC).

Earlier this spring, Mr. Van Loon provided the remains to the PWNHC. The Tsiigehtchic steppe bison is now preserved in Department of Environment and Natural Resources cold storage under the professional care and observation of the PWNHC.

The PWNHC, a division of the Department of Education, Culture and Employment, is developing a plan for study and preservation of the remains and for educating Northerners about the discovery, in consultation with the community of Tsiigehtchic and the Gwich’in Social and Cultural Institute.

Yukon Palaeontologist Dr. Grant Zazula and biologist Dr. Beth Shapiro of Pennsylvania State University, an expert on steppe bison, have both provided advice and expertise on the Tsiigehtchic steppe bison and continue to work with PWNHC to develop the research and study plan surrounding the discovery.

Images of the bison head are available to the media on request.

For more information, contact:

Shawn McCann
Manager, Public Affairs
Education, Culture and Employment
Tel: (867) 920-6222