Girl discovers saber-tooth cat fossil in Badlands

Junior Ranger Kylie Ferguson found a saber tooth cat fossil while on vacation in Badlands National Park. (Photo courtesy of National Parks Service)

Junior Ranger Kylie Ferguson found a saber tooth cat fossil while on vacation in BadlandsJunior Ranger Kylie Ferguson found a saber tooth cat fossil while on vacation in Badlands National Park. (Photo courtesy of National Parks Service) National Park. (Photo courtesy of National Parks Service)

A news release from the National Parks Service:

BADLANDS NATIONAL PARK, Interior, S.D. — On May 30th, seven year old Kylie Ferguson discovered some fossils while participating in a junior ranger program at Badlands National Park. “She knows the characteristics of fossils because her dad is a geologist,” said Kylie’s mom. “She was really excited and now her dad will just be over the moon!”

Junior Ranger Kylie did the right thing. She reported her find to rangers. Initially, paleontologists identified the bones as belonging to the oreodont Merycoidodon, an extinct sheep-like animal. Heavy rain throughout the month of June exposed more of the skull and paleontologists soon realized that it was not from the sheep-like animal, but was from the extinct saber tooth cat, Dinictis.

All fossils are scientifically important, but this fossil find is of high importance. Skulls from saber tooth cats are rare and usually fragmented or partially eroded away. In this case, however, the fossils were found in limestone which provided protection for millions of years allowing the skull to remain in museum display quality.

Paleontologists excavated the fossils and some of the surrounding rock the week of June 21st. The fossils will be fully prepared later this summer and added to the museum collection storage at Badlands National Park.

The Ferguson family is from Sharpsburg, GA and this is the first time Kylie had visited the Badlands. Her dad had traveled through the Badlands on a previous trip to a geology field camp and he wanted to share the sites with his family. They were attending the daily 10:30 am Junior Ranger program at the Ben Reifel Visitor Center when Kylie found the fossils.

About Author

Seth Tupper

Seth Tupper was born and raised in South Dakota and earned a bachelor's degree in journalism from South Dakota State University in 2001. After college, he worked at a newspaper in Minnesota and then returned to South Dakota in 2003 to join the staff of The Daily Republic in Mitchell, where he is currently the publisher. Seth has won numerous awards for his writing, including the 2007 Outstanding Young Journalist award in the daily newspapers category of the South Dakota Newspaper Association's Better Newspapers Contest. Seth's day-job and freelance work have granted him opportunities to meet hundreds of South Dakotans and travel across much of the state. He also spends a lot of his free time exploring South Dakota's state and national parks, hiking trails and kayak-friendly rivers.

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