Fossils found in Fairmead landfill in Madera County

Tuesday, July 30, 2019
FRESNO, Calif. (KFSN) -- Paleontologists follow each pass of the scraper at the Fairmead landfill to see if any clues to the Valley's past can be unearthed.

"We found one bone, one limb fragment from a large mammal. Couldn't tell exactly what it was. It looks kind of like camel," said paleontologist Blake Bufford.

Bufford says camels are native to North America. A jawbone and tooth were also found. The limb bone he found has been wrapped in plaster and burlap. Many of the fossils found are 700,000 thousand years old.

"This could be a little younger. It could only be 450,000," Bufford said.

Crews from Red Rock Environmental are digging a hole 30 feet deep for the landfill project. Paleontologists are watching closely because so many fossils have been found in the area in the past.

"We found a little bit of mammoth. a little bit of Harland's ground sloth, which is much bigger like the size of my car over there," said paleontologist Michael George.

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Over 15,000 fossils of all sizes have been recovered from the site over the years. A mammoth tusk was discovered in 1993. A life-size replica is now on display at the Fossil Discovery Center across from the landfill.

"It's a continuing process. It's interesting. They haven't dug in five years," said Conrad Gaunt.

But more dirt is needed to cover the trash.

Crews will spend another month at this excavation site so the paleontologists hope they can find even more fossils dating back to the ice age.

The latest find came after just a few passes.

"This place is the largest middle Pleistocene fossil deposit on the west coast," Bufford said.

He described the landfill area as an ancient lake bed popular with herbivores.

Bufford said it would be nice to find a full skeleton of the animal but typically they'll find bits and pieces of many animals scattered at the excavation site.
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