Wyoming cave with fossil secrets to be excavated

Wyoming cave with fossil secrets to be excavated

July 24th, 2014 by Associated Press

In an image provided by the Bureau of Land Management, date not known, Bureau of Land Management cave specialist Bryan McKenzie rappels into Natural Trap Cave in north-central Wyoming during a cleanup expedition. The cave holds the remains of tens of thousands of animals, including many now-extinct species, from the late Pleistocene period tens of thousands of years ago. Starting July 28, 2014, scientists plan to venture back into the cave and resume digging for the first time in more than 30 years. (AP Photo/Bureau of Land Management)

Photo by The Associated Press /Times Free Press.

CHEYENNE, Wyo. (AP) - For the first time in more than 30 years, paleontologists are preparing excavate a sinkhole-type cave in northern Wyoming that contains the ancient remains of tens of thousands of animals.

Those animals include American cheetahs, mammoths and short-faced bears - species now extinct that were common more than 20,000 years ago.

Natural Trap Cave is a 15-foot-wide hole in the ground that opens up into an 85-foot-deep cavern. Over many years, tens of thousands of animals accidentally fell into the pit and died.

Starting Monday, scientists plan to resume digging in Natural Trap Cave for the first time since the early 1980s. One goal is to retrieve DNA from the animal bones.

They say the cave holds valuable clues to life in the last glacial period.