The Yukon Beringia Interpretive Center, located next to the Yukon Transportation Museum, is a small but wonderful facility detailing the Beringia time period of the Yukon. Beringia represents the land bridge that once existed between Yukon and Siberia. During the Ice Age period, this area remained free of ice, as the glaciers did not form here. When the glaciers surrounding the area melted, the Bering Sea filled back up.
Animals were able to migrate from Euroasia to the America’s, and evidence of wooly mammals, lions and camels have been found in this region. As the climate changed over thousands of years, temperatures changed as well as the landscape, Boreal forests appeared, and a different species of land animals survived in the interglacial forests.
The highlight of the museum is a full cast of the Woolly Mammoth that was found in a farm field in Wisconsin. It was one of the most complete skeletons found. You can read more about that discovery here. Mammoths disappeared from Beringia when the Ice Age ended about 12,000 years ago.
You may have recently heard on the news about the discovery of a baby Wooly Mammoth, and that was found in this region. You can read more about this exciting discovery here.
Below is the menacing looking Jefferson Ground Sloth. While it may look ready to attack it’s prey, this mammal is a herbivore, not a carnivore, and the claws are for tree-climbing. According to the display, they are named in honor of US President Thomas Jefferson, who is considered to be the first paleontologist in North America. They roamed Yukon 75,000 years ago during an interglacial period. (which is what we are in now)
Giant Short-faced Bears lived in Yukon and Alaska until about 20,000 years ago, disappearing at the last Ice Age. Remains have been found throughout North America.
A single bone found in 1977 in northern Yukon was the first evidence that the wild bore (picture on wall behind the cast skeleton), a Flat-Headed Peccary, made it this far north in the America’s.
Fossils of the Scimitar Cat have been found in Texas and England, but rarely in the Beringia region. A limb was discovered in a gold mine in the permafrost near Dawson City, Yukon and DNA sequencing revealed these cats did roam this far north. The cast skull in the bottom of the photo is from a Sabretooth Cat found in California. There is no evidence of these cats in the Beringia region.
Skulls of (left to right) Black Bear, Grizzly Bear and the Giant Short-faced Bear
Comparison of Wolf and Grizzly Bear skulls
Our tour guide gave a demonstration in the use of the ATLATL, a spear throwing mechanism used to hunt animals. The arrow was placed on a lever, used to throw the arrow. As she put it, think of it as the ”chuck-it” dog toy thrower that you attach an arrow to.
Al trying his luck at getting ”dinner!” As you can see from all the arrows laying on the ground on the right side, none of us were successful at hunting!
Evidence of lions has been found.
As well as camels. Yes, camels roamed the Yukon!
On our way into the museum, there is a statute of a Giant Beaver. Little did I know, these actually existed! So the model I’m standing next to, is really a life-size model. Nose to tail, they were 8 feet in length. They were the size of today’s black bear. It is the largest rodent known from the Pleistocene Epoch.
Below is a skull of the modern day beaver in comparison to a cast skull of the Giant Beaver!
If you go to the museum, make sure you take the time to watch the movie about the Beringia era. If was very informative, and discussed how the men digging for gold during the Klondike Gold Rush actually discovered many fossils that were stuck in the muck, also known as the permafrost region, which is about 60 meters deep in the Yukon.
Quote of the Day: ”We were meant to explore this earth like children do, unhindered by fear, propelled by curiosity and a sense of discovery. Allow yourself to see the world through new eyes and know there are amazing adventures here for you.” – Laurel Bleadon Maffe