Kylie Ferguson, of Sharpsburg, Ga. in Coweta County, stumbled upon bones belonging to the extinct saber tooth cat, Dinictis. The discovery was made at Badlands National Park in southwest South Dakota on May 30, where Ferguson had been participating in a junior ranger program.
"Junior Ranger Kylie did the right thing. She reported her find to rangers," park officials said.
Kylie's fossil find was especially meaningful for her father.
"She knows the characteristics of fossils because her dad is a geologist," said Kylie's mom. "She was really excited and now her dad will just be over the moon!"
Initially, park officials said paleontologists identified the bones as belonging to the oreodont Merycoidodon, an extinct sheep-like animal. But heavy rain throughout the month of June exposed more of the skull and paleontologists soon realized that it was not from the sheep-like animal, but was from Dinictis.
Officials said the fossils were found in limestone which provided protection for millions of years allowing the skull to remain in museum display quality. Paleontologists have since excavated the fossils and some of the surrounding rock and they will be added to the museum collection storage at Badlands National Park.