Collection

Excavation site at Rustler Ranch.

Rustler Ranch Mastodon

This mastodon, Mammut Americana, lived in northeastern California on the Modoc Plateau, a volcanic region east of Mount Shasta. It was discovered in 1997 when a ranch hand on the Rustler Ranch in Modoc County found a portion of a tooth emerging from a stream bank and thought he had found an arrowhead. Upon digging out the tooth he realized this was something much bigger. Removing the top layer of soil revealed a nearly intact mastodon skeleton in the exact position in which it died, lying on its side. The only parts missing were the tusks, which were probably eroded away by the nearby stream. Nonetheless, it is the most complete specimen of this species found in California.

Six staff members of the Museum's Natural Sciences Department joined the rancher and his family at the site and within eight days had the entire skeleton excavated from the ground and carefully placed on a flatbed truck for transport to the Museum.

The Museum's science preparation staff prepared the mastodon skeleton and made a casting of the skeleton to put on permanent display in the Natural Sciences Gallery when the gallery is renovated. While the work was in progress, the work was visible from the gallery. With the work complete, the skeleton has been returned to the owner and the cast stored until installation.

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