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Ice Age wolf bones found northwest of Las Vegas

COURTESY: UNLV
COURTESY: UNLV

It's always exciting to find old things -- consider a ten in your coat pocket -- so imagine the excitement of a UNLV geologist Josh Bonde when he uncovered a 10,000- to 15,000-year-old foot bone that confirms the dire wolf once roamed Nevada.

Bonde discovered the fossil late last year while surveying the upper Las Vegas Wash in northwest Las Vegas near Tule Springs, a location known to be rich in Ice Age remains. The find was recently verified by Xiaoming Wang of the Los Angeles County Museum of Natural History.

The dire wolf is a larger, now-extinct relative of the gray wolf, the endangered German shepherd-like canid that exists today. Dire wolves were thought to inhabit North America for millions of years until they became extinct approximately 10,000 years ago, perhaps due to food scarcity. They've been found throughout the Southwest, but never locally.

“Dire wolves are known to have lived in almost all of North America south of Canada, but their historical presence in Nevada has been absent until now,” said Bonde, who was a doctoral candidate at the time of the discovery, but is now a professor.

Columbian mammoths, camels, horses, bison, and ground sloths have also been found near the Las Vegas Valley. For more info, see the UNLV news website.