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MOUNTAIN HOME, Idaho — The remains of a toddler found near Mountain Home Saturday were being tested Tuesday to determine the age of the child.
Elmore County Sheriff Mike Hollinshead told EastIdahoNews.com the child “between one and five years old” was originally buried in the ground, but a badger recently dug up the remains.
“The remains were discovered by Idaho Fish and Game employees working in the area,” Hollinshead explained. “One of the employees saw bones and later discovered a human skull.”
Analysis of the remains is in its preliminary stages, but Hollinshead says investigators aren’t ruling anything out at this point. There were no fibrous materials, such as clothing, located with the remains.
“We have not ruled out criminal activity and we are treating the remains as we would in any homicide investigation,” he said. “The information we have today indicates the body has been there for quite some time. It appears to have been buried longer than two to five years.”
Archaeologists are investigating the remains to determine if there is a connection to the nearby Oregon Trail network. The BLM archaeologist for the area where the bones were found said they did not exhibit Native American characteristics based on terrain locations.
Members of the Elmore County Sheriff’s Office, Idaho Department of Fish and Game and Bureau of Land Management retrieved the remains Saturday after consulting with archaeologists and a tribal representative.
Hollinshead says there are no indications of the gender of the remains, but anthropologists will start working today to determine how old the child was when he or she died.
According to the Smithsonian Natural Museum of Natural History, skeletal remains can be good age markers because teeth and bones mature at fairly predictable and documented rates.
Teeth are the most accurate age indicators for toddlers and individuals up to the age of 21. Like many other mammals, humans have two sets of teeth – “baby” teeth and permanent teeth.
Hollinshead says once the age is determined, officials will work to see how long the remains have been buried.
“At that point, investigators will have a time frame to potentially test DNA against potential missing children,” Hollinshead said.