Mammoth Site, South Dakota

October 14, 2015

In 1974 while excavating for a housing development, earth moving equipment uncovered one of the largest concentration of mammoth remains in the world.

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Entrance

26,000 years ago a cavern at the site collapsed. The hole was fed by warm-artesian spring waters creating an attractive pond to wildlife.

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The place is enclosed and protected by a climate controlled building

Enticed by the warm water and pond vegetation, the mammoths entered the pond to eat, drink or bathe and then could not escape. The mammoths were unable to find a foothold to scale the steep shale banks. Trapped in the pit, the mammoths ultimately died of starvation, exhaustion, or drowning.

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Findings at the site include the remains of megafauna such as Giant short-faced bears along with those of shrub oxen, American camel, llama, wolves, coyotes, birds, minks, ferrets, prairie dogs, voles, and moles. Invertebrate discoveries include several species of clams, snails, and slugs.

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Columbian Mammoth

Over the course of the next 350 to 700 years, the hole filled with sediments and moslty mammoth remains.

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As of 2012, at least 61 individual mammoths had been identified.

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The majority of the mammoth remains have been identified as those of Columbian Mammoths, although the remains of three Woolly mammoths have been found as well.

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Researchers measuring the pelvic bones of the remains have determined that most of the victims were young males.

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A hypothesis drawn from observations of modern elephants' matriarchal societies, in which these group members are expelled, concludes that this group was inclined to the risk-taking behavior that led to their entrapment

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Not petrified, these fossils are dry and fragile. The bones, scat and shells are identified, numbered cataloged and preserved, with almost all the mammoth remains displayed in-situ (as they were found in the sinkhole).

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The Mammoth Site is now a 501(c)-3 non-profit organization. Earthwatch volunteers participate in excavations during July.

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The museum's visiting scientists have included specialists from Mexico, Italy, Netherlands, Great Britain, Russia, and Germany.

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Donations, some made by local citizens, along with the work performed by amateur and professional excavators, led to its status as a museum, and it was designated a National Natural Landmark in 1980.

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The Giant Short-Faced Bear

The Giant Short-Faced Bear was the largest land carnivore in North America during the ice age. Weighing up to 1500 pounds, this bear stood over 12 feet tall on his hind legs with a reach of 15 feet 4 inches (4.5 m)

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Replica of Lyuba

Lyuba is a female woolly mammoth calf who died c. 41,800 years ago at the age of 30 to 35 days. She is by far the best preserved mammoth mummy in the world.

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The museum also houses a collection of Clovis and Folsom artifacts and sponsors outreach programs for students from elementary to graduate-school levels.

How to get there

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If you have a GPS. make sure you type Mammoth Site, South Dakota instead of Mammoth Hot Springs otherwise you will end in Yellowstone


Driving distance from Vancouver:
2,159 km (1,341 mi)
Driving time from Vancouver: Approx. 21 hours