Mastodon skeleton found during drain project in Michigan: 'That thing is huge'

Bones found in Kent County, Michigan, sent to museum in Grand Rapids

Wednesday, August 17, 2022
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The bones of a prehistoric mastodon animal were found in Kent County, Michigan during a drain project recently.

KENT COUNTY, Mich. -- It's the discovery everyone in West Michigan is talking about: mastodon bones unearthed in Kent County.

ABC affiliate WZZM got a look at the pre-historic bones, which are now at the Grand Rapids Public Museum.

"It was when they started to uncover that femur bone, it's like, 'wow, that thing is huge.' You know, that's no horse," Kent County Drain Commissioner Ken Yonker said.

On Friday, the Kent County Drain Commission discovered huge bones while working on a drain project.

"My engineer texted me and said, 'these are mastodon bones.' And, yeah, then it took a little bit sank in," Yonker said.

The more they thought about it, the more excited they got.

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"And it's like, man, this is actually a find, especially when we heard back from U of M. And they verified it. It's like we got the real thing here," Yonker said.

A mastodon is a prehistoric elephant that went extinct during the last ice age.

"This mastodon is at least over 11,000 years old," said Cory Redman, science curator at Grand Rapids Public Museum.

Redman said they still have to do several tests, but initial clues say the animal was young, between 12 and 20 years old.

"We're looking back at the past of our existence and, and where we are, and it's just, it just kind of puts a little perspective into where we are, who we are on this earth," Yonker said.

"This seems like a pretty rare occurrence, maybe every two to five years," Redman added.

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He said the bones weren't even that deep, but rather only about 5 feet underground.

"The next step is to very, very carefully dry the bones out because they are basically water-logged, so they don't crack, they don't deform, they don't break up," Redman said.

The bones are being held at the Grand Rapids Public Museum's collections facility, but experts say it could take some time before they are put on display.

"Over the next year, year and a half, we're going to slowly dry the bones out. We're going to keep track of any mold build up and take care of that. We're also going to apply any glue or adhesives that are needed just to make sure it's good and stable, and then hopefully in a year, year and a half time we can put the whole skeleton in an exhibit so people can come see it," Redman said.

Redman also said that due to the nature of the skeleton, the display of the mastodon won't be in 3D standing form but rather more laid out for people to see.

"Here we are at a time where there's just so much bad news. And now we have something that we've found that is just downright exciting," Yonker said.