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National Park Service, Associated Press
This image provided by the Great Basin National Park shows a Winchester Model 1873 rifle found in Nevada. The gun made in 1882 was found propped against a juniper tree in Great Basin National Park in November during an archaeological survey. Park spokeswoman Nichole Andler says officials may never know how long the rifle had been standing there, but it’s possible it had been left there in the 1880s.

RENO, Nev. — Researchers are trying to crack the mystery surrounding the discovery of a weathered, rusted Winchester rifle in the mountains of remote eastern Nevada.

The gun made in 1882 was found leaning against a juniper tree in Great Basin National Park during an archaeological survey in November.

Park spokeswoman Nichole Andler says officials may never know how long the rifle has been there, but it possibly could have been left in the 1800s.

She says the area along the Utah border has a history of mining, ranching and hunting. Park researchers are scouring historical documents to learn who might have been the owner.

Gun expert Herbert Houze of Cody, Wyoming, says Winchester rifles were so valuable that he thinks its owner leaned it against the tree and then couldn't find it.