New Mexico’s standing as a paleontological hot spot has once again been confirmed.
Recently, Bureau of Land Management (BLM) grazing permittees Tom and Sissy Olney reported that a possible mammoth tusk was eroding out of an arroyo bank on BLM land within their grazing allotment.
The Olneys had noticed a white object within the arroyo wall over 20 years ago, however, based on the small amount exposed it appeared to be a rock or root.
It became obvious the “rock or root” was something else when recent erosion in the arroyo exposed close to two feet of the specimen. The realization that it was likely a tusk prompted the Olneys to contact the BLM with news of the discovery.
BLM New Mexico State Paleontologist Phil Gensler and Gary Morgan, of the New Mexico Museum of Natural History in Albuquerque, partially excavated and stabilized the tusk. Gensler and Morgan, with assistance from the Olneys and their 7-year-old granddaughter Jenna Rose, finished excavating the tusk on June 26.
The tusk was then taken to the Natural History Museum in Albuquerque for further stabilization and analysis.
“We appreciate the Olneys report of the tusk on their grazing allotment. Their actions will ensure that scientists have another piece of New Mexico’s ancient history to study while also setting an example for others to follow,” said Phil Gensler. “Granddaughter Jenna Rose, who assisted with the excavation, will certainly have some stories to share with her classmates come fall.”
The nearly complete tusk is about five feet long, which probably means that it was from a juvenile male or a female mammoth.
Tusks of full-grown males can reach 10 feet in length.
Though there is no way to determine the age of this tusk, mammoths went extinct in North America about 11,000 years ago. The tusk discovered by the Olneys most likely belonged the Columbian Mammoth, Mammuthus columbi.
During excavation, no other remains of the mammoth were found or are expected in the immediate area.