Ice Age LA–Home of the Dire Wolf

Dire wolves are real and they used to live in LA.

They lived during the the last ice age, which ended about 11,000 years ago. But before you start imagining glaciers, snow storms, and night kings, you should know winter didn’t come so hard for LA. It was definitely cooler but not exactly freezing–it was also wetter and grassier. It might have looked something like this:

Mark Hallett mural at La Brea Tar Pits Museum

Okay, now that we got that figured out, back to the dire wolves. From what I know, they’re like the wolves we have today except they were slightly bigger and they had more powerful teeth. How do we know they lived here? Because we found like a million of them in the ground near The Grove. Okay, maybe not a million, but there are a lot. In fact, they’re the most common large mammal found by scientists at the La Brea tar pits. Long story short, dire wolves hunted in packs and when they came across a tasty meal that was conveniently stuck in tar they would try to eat it. Unfortunately, they would also get stuck in the tar. Replay that scene again and again and you end up with a wall of 400 dire wolf skulls:

Wall of dire wolf skulls at La Brea Tar Pits Museum

Ice age LA was a weird time. Not only were there dire wolves, but there were also saber-tooth cats, mastodons, and 1500 pound giant sloths. All of these animals are extinct and even though they’re cool, they might not be the most relevant to our search for nature in present day LA.

But don’t worry, I got you covered. There are a few different kinds of plants and animals that were around at the same time as the dire wolf that are still growing strong. Here’s what you can be on the lookout for:

If this tells me anything, it’s that LA has always been home to interesting wildlife. Knowing that LA has such a surprising past makes me excited about what we can find in the present. We just have to get out there are start looking. And now our watch begins.

Want to know what I’m finding in LA between posts or have a nature question you want me to try to answer? Follow me (Michelle) on Instagram @blackgirlstrekkin or @michelledoubleelle. You can also let me know what you’re finding with #bgtnaturejournal

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