History Mysteries
Woolly mammoth restoration at the Royal British Columbia Museum, Victoria, British Columbia.

Sightings of Living Woolly Mammoths

Woolly mammoth restoration at the Royal British Columbia Museum, Victoria, British Columbia.
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"Sightings of Living Woolly Mammoths"
Caption: Woolly mammoth restoration at the Royal British Columbia Museum, Victoria, British Columbia.
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Have all woolly mammoths gone extinct? Perhaps not.

Although orthodox science has declared the mammoth species to be long dead, it said the same about dinosaurs even though dinosaurs called tuataras still exist in New Zealand.

Reports during the last several centuries suggest that small pockets of mammoth survivors may still walk the earth.

Sightings by Siberian hunters

During the mid-19th Century, large shaggy beasts were reported to Russian authorities by hunters in northeastern Siberia. Scientists in Moscow took the reports seriously, but no real supporting proof was ever discovered.

Almost 70 years later, M. Gallon—a French chargé d'affaires posted in Vladivostok, Russia—wrote that while traveling through Minsk in 1920 he met with a Russian fur-trapper. The man claimed, M. Gallon wrote, that he had personally seen giant, furry elephants living deep in the taiga forest. The trapper admitted the giant beasts frightened him and he's never seen anything like them before or since.

Gallon said the most remarkable thing about his meeting with the trapper was that the man knew nothing about woolly mammoths, what they looked like, or that they were thought to be extinct creatures. The trapper talked about the animals as another type of forest animal he'd come across during his days as a trapper and took it for granted that the great beasts lived on the tundra and forests.

The American Indian legends  

Early missionaries to the new land of North America were told by the Ponca Indians, who had migrated from what later became northeastern Nebraska, that they had sometimes hunted and killed what could only be called woolly mammoths during their twice a year tribal buffalo hunts. The kills were made along the banks of what is now called the Niobrara River.

According to their calculations, the missionaries believed the hunts and kills took place hundreds of years earlier, perhaps as far back as the 12th Century.

Much farther northwest come stories from the Kaska tribe of northern British Columbia.

A university ethnologist recorded the Kaskaian tradition during 1917. The tribes elders told him of “A very large kind of animal which roamed the country a long time ago. It corresponded somewhat to white men's pictures of elephants.

"It was of huge size, in build like an elephant, had tusks, and was hairy. These animals were seen not so very long ago, it is said, generally singly, but none have been seen now for several generations."

The researcher learned that Indians occasionally found the giant bones. Later the ethnologist claimed he and some companions had seen one of the bones too: a shoulder-blade as wide as a table, approximately three feet across.

The Alaskan myth

Swedish investigator Bengt Sjögren relates stubborn tales about surviving mammoths in Alaska. According to Sjögren, a Henry Tukeman swore he killed a woolly mammoth in northeastern Alaska during October of 1899. Investigating all the claims the man supposedly made, Sjögren concluded the entire story was a hoax.

Native tribes including the Inuit, however, claimed that they had seen and hunted the great shaggy beasts. The stories had enough detail that American zoologist Charles Haskins Townsend traveled to the region. He met with some natives that were trading mammoth tusks. When he asked them if any of the animals were still alive and showed them drawings of the creatures, some of the natives, trying to be helpful, agreed they had seen them.

Sjögren was convinced that none had. He believes that the meetings with Townsend began the persistent cycle of myths about living Alaskan mammoths.    

Last of the mammoths?

Scientists have determined that "dwarf" woolly mammoths still survived just 4,000 years ago. They believe the diminutive mammoths went extinct on an island north of Siberia, in the Arctic Ocean.

Because the smaller mammoths disappeared more than 9,000 years after their full-sized cousins went extinct elsewhere in the world, it's a strong probability that humans hunted them into extinction.

Whether the Indian legends of hunting them as recently as 800 years ago is true, or if Siberian trappers really saw mammoths—or something like them—less than 200 years ago, no one may ever know for sure.

More about this author: Terrence Aym

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