Created: 06/13/2014 3:15 PM
By: KOB.com Web Staff
ELEPHANT BUTTE, New Mexcio -- Officials in Sierra County anticipate more visitors to Elephant Butte Lake State Park and the surrounding area in the next few weeks following the discovery of an approximately 3 million year old Stegomastodon fossil at the park.
A group of campers recently discovered the Stegomastodon after spotting what looked like an exposed tusk in the sand. The group started to dig and discovered an intact tusk and skull. They immediately contacted the New Mexico Museum of Natural History and Science in Albuquerque, which sent paleontologists to recover and analyze the findings.
It is illegal on state and federal lands to conduct fossil digs and to remove fossils. However, because Elephant Butte has received national attention following the Stegomastodon find, officials hope visitors will want to learn more about the parks' history and take advantage of its many recreational opportunities.
"Bits and pieces of what we've been told are remains of Stegomastodons and fossils have been found as recently as 10 years ago, but nothing as complete or intact as this," said New Mexico State Parks spokesperson Beth Wojahn. "NM State Parks is thrilled to have this big of a discovery - and what a fitting place for an ancient elephant to be found than at Elephant Butte. We want to thank the campers who called the proper authorities and didn't compromise the integrity of the dig. This is history in the making - how often do you find something this complete?"
Wojahn said that NM State Parks would love to build an exhibit at the park where fossil discoveries like these can be displayed. She also said the park anticipates an increase in visitors who may be curious about the lake's history.
The Stegomastodon fossil was taken to the NM Museum of Natural History and Science where paleontologists will analyze it. Results of the analysis are expected to take up to six months to receive.