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Upper Colorado Region
Salt Lake City, Utah
Media Contact:
Mary Carlson
505-462-3576

Released On: June 13, 2014

Stegomastodon Found at Elephant Butte
ELEPHANT BUTTE, N.M. – Excavation is nearly complete on the site where a Stegomastodon has rested for millions of years near Elephant Butte Reservoir.

Campers in the area discovered what appeared to be a jaw bone and tusk on Monday and reported the discovery to New Mexico State Parks, who manage the land for the Bureau of Recreation under an agreement with Reclamation.

Scientists from Reclamation, the New Mexico Museum of Natural History and Science and New Mexico State Parks tentatively identified the fossil of the prehistoric elephant based on photos from the campers. New Mexico State Parks immediately closed the area to the public and secured the fossil until excavation could begin today.

"This area was under water until just a couple of weeks ago when the lake level dropped as Reclamation began releasing water for irrigation," said Kay Dunlap, Elephant Butte Lake State Park Director.

The Stegomastodon discovery provides both a unique and potentially more complete specimen for scientists to study. The New Mexico Museum of Natural History and Science led the excavation, and will lead the study of the specimen.

Reclamation Archaeologist Mark Hungerford described the discovery as a "rare and extremely important find."

To date, Reclamation has documented close to 180 paleontological sites on its land throughout the 17 Western states. Under the requirements of the Paleontological Resources Preservation Act of 2009, Reclamation must protect paleontological resources on our land using scientific principles and expertise.

Crews expect to complete excavation today. Although this find has generated much interest from the public, it is important to remember that it is a violation of federal and state law to remove archaeological and paleontological specimens from federal or state lands.

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Reclamation is the largest wholesale water supplier and the second largest producer of hydroelectric power in the United States, with operations and facilities in the 17 Western States. Its facilities also provide substantial flood control, recreation, and fish and wildlife benefits. Visit our website at www.usbr.gov.