Tusk, Tusk: Bachelor Party Makes Mammoth Discovery

Weekly news, tips, trivia, fun facts and wild tales from the outdoors

June 18, 2014

As bachelor parties go, one held by a group of buddies last week at a New Mexico lake wasn’t anything like the 1984 movie starring Tom Hanks, as they unearthed a museum-quality 3.5 million-year-old ancestor of the modern elephant, complete with tusks! You’ll also read about a measure to permit Sunday hunting in Massachusetts, and much more.

Revelers Find Ancient Skull, Archeologists Dig It
A group of young men from Albuquerque, N.M., celebrating the forthcoming marriage of a friend at a popular lake and state park last week made an unintended contribution to natural history when they discovered the skull of a stegomastadon, estimated to be at least 3.5 million years old!

The guys were reportedly hiking along a beach at Elephant Butte Lake State Park — ironically named for an island formation resembling a pachyderm — when they spied an unusual formation protruding from the sand. After they dug a little deeper they saw what appeared to them to be a well-preserved elephant skull. Doing the right thing, they snapped photos with their smartphones and contacted park authorities, who subsequently got in touch with the New Mexico Museum of Natural History and Science.

Some men on a bachelor party hike in New Mexico discovered the skull of a stegomastadon, estimated to be at least 3.5 million years old!
Some men on a bachelor party hike in New Mexico discovered the skull of a stegomastadon, estimated to be at least 3.5 million years old!

The beach area was then secured as the experts arrived at the scene to meticulously unearth the skull, wrap it in protective burlap and plaster of Paris, and cautiously lift it from its resting place for the past 3-plus million years.

The scientists at the scene when your Outdoor News Hound reporter arrived there Thursday, June 12 were positively giddy over the find, if you can call a scientist giddy. The upper portion of the skull was virtually intact — with full tusks — but without a lower jawbone fossil.

“This is far and away the best ever found,” paleontologist Gary Morgan said. “It’s the most complete ‘stego’ ever found in New Mexico.”

The fossil was transported to the state museum in Santa Fe, where it will be studied and dated. It is hoped that someday it will be displayed for public viewing.

Massachusetts House Passes Sunday Hunting Bill
A measure that would lift a centuries-old prohibition and permit bowhunters to hunt on Sundays for the last three months of the year was approved by the Massachusetts House by a voice vote June 4 and was sent to the Senate for consideration.

The Connecticut House also passed legislation during the 2014 session to allow Sunday deer hunting with bow and arrows in designated “deer management zones,” though the Senate failed to act on the measure. In March, Virginia Gov. Terry McAuliffe signed a bill allowing Sunday hunting on private property during designated seasons by hunters who have a landowner’s written permission.

Currently, 10 states still have some type of Sunday hunting restriction or prohibition dating back to “blue laws” originally enacted in the 1700s. Those states are Connecticut, Delaware, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, New Jersey, North Carolina, Pennsylvania, South Carolina, and West Virginia.

Indiana Program Aimed At Urban Deer Conflicts
The Indiana Department of Natural Resources has introduced an innovative program to help communities alleviate their urban deer conflicts.

The Urban Deer Hunting Access Program was designed to assist communities experiencing problems with overabundant deer to manage those deer through hunting. Communities will be eligible to apply for funding to open public land for access by licensed deer hunters to resolve documented conflicts.

“Hunting is a highly favored form of management for deer by hunters and many non-hunters alike,” said DNR deer biologist Chad Stewart. “It is incredibly safe, cost-effective, and efficient. However, it is difficult for communities to take that leap into allowing public hunting because of the perception and opposition of hunting by small and vocal groups of people.”

Funding for the project is provided by the Indiana DNR and the Wildlife and Sport Fish Restoration Program by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. Communities or public entities can enter into a contract with the DNR for up to three years with a maximum of $15,000 available per year.

Leave Baby Birds Alone
It’s the time of year that wildlife agencies and bird groups often dread, when they must field dozens of phones calls — often from concerned youngsters and well-meaning adults — about what to do with a baby bird they’ve discovered.

Ron Stewart, regional conservation outreach manager for the Utah Division of Wildlife Resources, says young birds often leave their nests before they’re able to fly.

“They usually spread out along the branch of a tree and call for their parents to bring food to them,” he says. While the birds are spread along the branch, it’s not uncommon for a strong wind to blow the birds off the branch and for people to find them on the ground.

If you find a baby bird on the ground, Stewart says the best thing to do is get the bird out of the reach of house cats and dogs by placing it on a safe branch.

Stewart also says you shouldn’t feed the bird before you place it back in the tree.

“Trying to hand feed a young bird is not a good idea,” he says. “For example, you might be surprised to learn that robins are one of just a few birds that can safely eat worms. Most birds can’t.”

Quote Of The Week

“A good gamefish is too valuable to be caught only once. The fish you release is your gift to another angler.”
– Lee Wulff,
Handbook of Freshwater Fishing, 1938

J.R. Absher is a freelance outdoor writer whose articles and columns appear in numerous national publications. He offers his unique perspective of the outdoors weekly for sportsmansguide.com. You may contact him at jrabsher@me.com.

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