The bones of a mammoth have been discovered during a routine digging project next to the slopes of Snowmass. A bulldozer operator was pushing mud and peat, enlarging a reservoir for the Snowmass Village Water and Sanitation District when he saw what appeared to be bones sticking out of the push pile. Denver archeologist with the URS engineering firm, Bob Mutaw, says, "He stopped, backed off, and started realizing what he had, and that it was a very large animal."

District officials stopped work and secured the area. They took pictures of the bones and sent them on to the Denver Museum of Science and Nature, and URS. "Oh my gosh! We have a mammoth site!" was the first thing Mutaw thought.  "When we saw the jaw with the tooth, it was immediately obvious."  He adds that it is not unprecedented, but unusual. There have been a handful of mammoths found in Colorado, but this one is the highest, at 8,800 feet in altitude.

The area where the bones were discovered is a natural kind of bowl where a reservoir had been built years ago. Work crews had to dig through a foot or two of pond sludge scum, as they were trying to enlarge it. Underneath that was a 10-foot layer of clay. Beneath that was six feet of peat which is where the bones were found. Mutaw says, "Prehistoric peat bogs are not very rich with oxygen. After something gets buried, you have sealed anything in it and prevented any contact with the oxygen environment, which is what causes things to decay. Since this was sealed, the bones are in excellent condition." They are actual bones, as opposed to fossilized dinosaur bones.

Mutaw says plans are still being made as to who will excavate and test the bones. Radio carbon dating will be done, probably within the next month. He says mammoths went extinct between nine and 10,000 years ago. "But based on the geologic history that we are familiar with in this area, it might go back as far as 30,000 years."

Right now, the area is secured with a chain-link fence, and guarded 24 hours a day. The area is also closed to the public. The Snowmass Water & Sanitation District board will meet on Monday to decide what to do with the bones.