FOSSILS IN VEGAS: Tule Springs remains important archaeological site

LAS VEGAS (KSNV MyNews3) -- When you think of fossils, Las Vegas may not be the first thing that comes to mind.

But one of the most important Ice Age archaeological sites in the world is Tule Springs, a 30-minute drive north of the Las Vegas Strip.
Coming Friday on News 3 at 5: Dana Wagner will talk about how some people are planning to preserve Tule Springs -- which has received very little protection from looters or people driving ATVs or motorcycles -- for future generations.
It's a site so rich in fossils that scientists from around the globe come here to explore it. While plentiful, finding these ancient artifacts is a painstaking process.

Scientists look for what walked here all those years during the last two Ice Ages over the last 225,000 years, when this area was a marsh land, with abundant water.

There were Columbian mammoths, saber-tooth cats, the ground sloth, short-faced bears, camels and the American lion. Over the next 10,000 years, temperatures rose steadily, rivers and springs vanished, and the desert was born. And the search was on for ancient fossils.

Fossils were discovered on this site for the first time in the 1930s. But only recently have they been given another look after this area was considered for development during the home-building boom of a decade ago. But the homes never went up.

Scientists wanted to find out exactly what was out here first, and they were surprised with what they found.

While doing a sight survey here in summer 2011, paleontologist Dr. Josh Bonde of UNLV found something very interesting sticking out of a rock -- a bone. It turns out it was the bone of a dire wolf, the first one ever discovered in the state.

As students dig into the past two Ice Ages, when the Earth was warming and cooling at a dramatic rate, Dr. Bonde says it has modern-day implications as our climate is changing again.

He says by digging here, researchers can predict the future of plants and animals from looking at the past.