Madera's new Fossil Discovery Center

MADERA, Calif. "Can you check out those claws, though? That's a vicious set of stilettos there." Terry Dolph of S.J.V. Paleontology Society said.

The bones may not seem all that impressive but give them claws, muscles and fur standing 10 feet high and you are facing one scary creature.

"That was probably one of the largest bears that ever lived. The Short Faced bear. About the size of a car," Paleontologist Blake Bufford said.

The Fairmead Garbage Dump in Madera County is home to the richest paleontology site in California and across the road is the nearly completed discovery center created to house the treasures uncovered here.

"We had lions and cheetahs and camels believe it or not and horses. The camels and horses migrated back to Asia. They were originally from here. Something most people don't know," Dolph said.

Three million grant dollars from state, national private grants is building the facility to offer hands on learning for kids and adults. And to keep the digs going where thirty seven species of creatures have been uncovered to date.

"We're talking digging for real fossils and it will be going on for at least 20-40 years, we're guessing. Because of the concentrations according to the estimate of the paleontologist experts," Dolph said.

The San Joaquin valley paleontology foundation continues to raise funds to support the project goals.

An event here this week will add to those efforts.

The center will offer a real place to dig and a watering hole not unlike the ones where the bones of ancient creatures settled until the discovery a mastodon's tusk in June of 1993.

The discoveries made that summer day will soon be available to the public seven days a week, year round here at the Fossil Discovery Center in Madera County.

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