The 'Boneman' works to educate Wyoming museum visitors about wildlife

Posted at 5:01 PM, Jul 01, 2022
and last updated 2022-07-01 19:52:55-04

CODY - A Cody area grizzly that was euthanized by the Wyoming Game and Fish Department in 2020 suffered debilitating injuries before it was put down. Experts at the Draper Museum of Natural History found the injuries when they prepared the specimen for a strange new exhibition called The Boneman.

Twenty years ago, the Center of the West opened a brand new Natural History Museum called the Draper, which features exhibits on Yellowstone wildlife and wild places. But the museum was unlike any other because it took the exhibits from behind glass so people could get up close to things like wolves and bears.

Now the museum has taken the up close and personal experience to a whole new level.

“They can walk right up to us, interact with us, ask us questions, hold the skull, feel the skin,” said Draper Interim Curator Corey Anco.

Anco said the state Game and Fish Department offered two specimens to the museum. His staff then spent months cleaning the bones for articulation so people can learn from them as they are reassembled.

“Sometimes the difficult decision is made that necessitates the lethal removal of an animal from the landscape," Anco said. "And when that happens that animal kinda has two destinies. It either goes to a landfill and decomposes there, or it or it can go to a repository to be used for education and research. And here at the Draper Natural History Museum that’s what we are.”

The museum brought an articulating expert from Alaska to reconstruct the skeletons of a grizzly bear and a mountain lion. He’s called the Boneman. Lee Post has pieced together much bigger animals.

“I’ve done 30 whales. It might be 70 or 80 skeletons,” Post said.

Although he is self-taught, and one of a very few people in the world who knows how to do this, Post doesn’t brag.

“But I’m not doing them all. Students are doing them. Interns are doing them,” he said.

Post and his staff will keep working all day, except Sunday, through July 6. But even as they work, they are learning, too. They found the bear had a broken paw, and the Museum staff found it had an infection on its back from an injury, so it was in a lot of pain before it died.