The Ice Age franchise that began in 2002 contains many hilarious scenes featuring Scrat, a saber tooth squirrel. The fuzzy guy gets into plenty of trouble during various acorn-driven escapades. You could even categorize these misadventures as downright catastrophic. Among the most famous episodes is his attempt to bury a prized acorn. It leads to an unintended crack in the ice, sending a glacier hurtling towards the scraggly rodent.

Scrat’s pursuit of shiny acorns leads to his accidental preservation in a block of ice, only to turn up 20,000 years later in Hawaii. A quick thaw puts him back on the quest for acorns, though he eventually settles on a coconut instead. Despite the whimsical nature of the plot, a recent scientific discovery includes a surprising shoutout to Scrat.

Keep reading for the full scoop on the 30,000-year-old fur ball scientists recently revealed contains a real-life ice age squirrel.

The Mystery of the Fur ball

While a 30,000-year-old Arctic squirrel fossil sounds fantastic on its face, what gold miners uncovered in Canada in 2018 was anything but pretty. A ball of claws and fur, the unrecognizable object had researchers scratching their heads. Some declared it a “mangled lump of mummified flesh,” giving it little more thought.

But a recent reexamination of the fur ball in preparation for its display at Whitehorse’s Yukon Beringia Interpretive Centre (YBIC) has uncovered a far more fascinating story. As it turns out, the fur ball is none other than a fully intact mummified squirrel, preserved mid-hibernation at some point in the distant past.

Paleontologist Grant Zazula of the Yukon government notes, “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.”

The mystery of the fur ball was solved!

Identifying the Scrat-Like Critter Preserved in Time

Although the fuzzy mummified ball isn’t about to melt or return to life like Scrat, the critter still tells an extraordinary story. Scientists now believe the ball represents a curled-up Arctic ground squirrel (Urocitellus parryii).

Remarkably, this ancient species still lives where the “permafrosted” squirrel was uncovered. They look more like gophers than squirrels. But they still hibernate and flourish in Canada’s Yukon Territory. A representative from the YBIC explains, “It’s amazing to think that this little guy was running around the Yukon several thousand years ago.”

The remarkable find recently yielded more information thanks to X-ray scans. Researchers initially feared the mummification process and the artifact’s great age meant a deteriorated skeletal structure. But the scans provided evidence of a highly preserved bone structure nearly identical to that of Arctic ground squirrels today.

A Location Rich With Ancient Discoveries

Scrat-like squirrels aren’t the only things being uncovered in Canada’s Yukon. In 2016, gold miners made another stunning find: the remains of a 57,000-year-old grey wolf (Canis lupus) puppy.

Like the fur ball/squirrel, the wolf puppy remains remarkably intact. Julie Meachen of Des Moines University in Iowa explains, “She is the most complete wolf specimen ever found from the ice age. All her soft tissue, her hair, her skin, even her little nose is still there. She’s just complete. And that is really rare.”

Several years later during the summer of 2022, Canadian gold miners discovered a perfectly preserved juvenile mammoth. Further examination dated it to 30,000 years ago, like the squirrel fur ball. In other words, Canadian researchers have found unlikely representatives for two of the three “subzero heroes” from Ice Age — Scrat the squirrel and Manny the mammoth. As for Sid the sloth? The ice-cold hunt continues.

By Engrid Barnett, contributor for


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