30,000-year-old fur ball hidden in Canadian permafrost is actually a mummified squirrel

A twisted lump of mummified flesh was discovered by gold miners, but following closer examination it was discovered to be an Arctic ground squirrel curled up.

Scientists have discovered that a mysterious ball of fur, claws, and limbs that was recently discovered in Canada is really a mummified squirrel that most likely perished when it was hibernating some 30,000 years ago.

The fur ball was found in 2018 by miners near Hester Creek in Canada's Yukon territory's Klondike gold fields. YBIC representatives stated in a Facebook post that experts have recently reevaluated it in preparation for its imminent public premiere at the Yukon Beringia Interpretive Center (YBIC) in Whitehorse.

The bulge is thought to be an Arctic ground squirrel curled up. (Urocitellus parryii). This species, which resembles current gophers more than other squirrels, is still present in the area where the mummified ball was discovered. After the location where it was discovered, researchers have given the squirrel the name "Hester."

The YBIC commented, "It's incredible to think that this little guy was running around the Yukon several thousand years ago." They stated that the "incredible specimen" will soon be on exhibit at the museum.

It was not immediately clear what the balled-up squirrel was when it was originally discovered by researchers. According to Grant Zazula, a paleontologist with the Yukon government who oversaw the squirrel's examination, "it's not quite recognizable until you see these little hands and these claws, and you see a little tail, and then you see ears," CBC News. He said that the scientists were overjoyed when they learned they had discovered a squirrel that was "perfectly preserved."

Hester was most likely hibernating when he passed away, according to the experts. In their subterranean tunnels, which they frequently surround with leafy nests, living Arctic ground squirrels coil up into balls like Hester to hibernate. These preserved nests have been discovered by researchers, however they are virtually invariably empty.

The squirrel was X-rayed by a nearby veterinarian, Dr. Jess Heath, to obtain a better idea of how well preserved its insides were because the researchers didn't want to remove it from its ball for fear of damaging it.

According to Heath, the squirrel's bones would have deteriorated as calcium drained out over time, indicating that the ball's inside was probably not in good shape. However, according to CBC News, the X-ray scans showed that the squirrel's skeleton was "in great condition" and that it resembled a real Arctic ground squirrel nearly exactly.

A popular location for finding mummified animals is the Klondike gold fields. A completely preserved baby mammoth from roughly 30,000 years ago was discovered there in June 2022. A 57,000-year-old mummified wolf pup was also discovered there in 2016.