December 21, 2015

Mammoth Tusk Found in Saskatchewan

In early October, the Royal Saskatchewan Museum (RSM) was contacted by Derek Lucik, Operations Manager with Inland Aggregates, about a potential fossil discovery at a work site just a few kilometres east of Saskatoon.   The fossil was confirmed as a tusk of a woolly mammoth and is currently being conserved at the RSM.

In early October, the Royal Saskatchewan Museum (RSM) was contacted by Derek Lucik, Operations Manager with Inland Aggregates, about a potential fossil discovery at a work site just a few kilometres east of Saskatoon.   The fossil was confirmed as a tusk of a woolly mammoth and is currently being conserved at the RSM.

“As we were stockpiling gravel that had just been mined, our operator Richard Kaweski noticed something that was outside the norm,” Lucik said.  “Richard came down from his machine and put the tusk piece aside.  I’ve heard that this is not uncommon in our Alberta locations and that they normally contact the museum; so we attempted to do the same thing here.  I simply looked online and found Tim Tokaryk’s contact information and reached out.  He responded quickly and definitively that it was a tusk.”

The swift action of Kaweski and Lucik enabled the team at the RSM to properly conserve the tusk.

“Conservation of ivory from fossil animals is extremely delicate as, once the tusk becomes exposed to air, it begins to dry out, expand, and crack,” Royal Saskatchewan Museum Curator of Vertebrate Palaeontology Tim Tokaryk said.  “If left untreated, it would be totally destroyed.  We certainly appreciate Inland Aggregates and their workers in the discovery of this find.  It would be lost to everyone if it had not been for them.”

“This is a great story of industry assisting in preserving Saskatchewan’s palaeontological history,” Parks, Culture and Sport Minister Mark Docherty said.  “I can’t commend the employees of Inland Aggregates enough for protecting the tusk and contacting the Royal Saskatchewan Museum.”

Industry, through active gravel pits, surface and subsurface mining, construction or road work, often unearths rocks that are millions of years old, and they may contain never-before-seen fossils.  Frequently, these rocks are not visible on the surface in Saskatchewan.

“By industry and the museum working together, notification of fossil discoveries could add volumes not only to the history of life in Saskatchewan, but the history of life on the planet,” Tokaryk said.

Mammoth remains are unique in that they tell of an environment in Saskatchewan of tundra at the edges of ice fields during the glacial period.  Almost all of the Royal Saskatchewan Museum’s collection of mammoth remains are isolated bones and teeth except for the partial skeleton of one found near Kyle.

The RSM has taken a lead role through the Heritage Property Act in managing the provincial fossil record.  If the public or industry should discover what they believe may be a fossil, they are encouraged to contact the RSM at 306-787-2815 or info@royalsaskmuseum.ca.