GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. — The Grand Rapids Public Museum announced on Friday an Eastern elk skeleton that is now on display in the “West Michigan Habitats” exhibit.
The skeleton on display is made up of bones found and preserved from two separate animals, according to a news release.
Its skull is from a fully matured male and has been radiocarbon dated to around 220 years, give or take 30 years.
It was found in Sullivan Lake near Fenton back in July 2020 by Michael Bleau and his family.
The skull was accidently pulled up from the bottom of the lake when its antlers got hooked on the anchor of a swimming platform that they were moving.
This skull is on loan to the museum.
The rest of the skeleton on display comes from a second, younger and smaller animal found on the east side of Basset Lake in July 1968 and was donated to the museum’s collections.
It was found in the mud along the shore.
“Both finds are important,” said Dr. Cory Redman, the GRPM’s science curator. “They represent the extinct subspecies of elk, Eastern elk, which went extinct in Michigan around 1875. Eastern elk were exterminated so quickly it is difficult to determine their original range or study their physical differences, because few specimens exist in collections.”
Eastern elk were declared fully extinct in 1880.
Michigan’s current elk population are the descendants from the reintroduction of seven animals near the town of Wolverine in 1918.
Today, the elk population is around 1,000 animals living across a 105,000-acre area in a northeastern part of the lower peninsula, according to the museum.
Overhunting and habitat loss from colonization and the westward expansion of settlers caused the extinction of Eastern elk, despite historical and archeological evidence indicating the elk were abundant and occurred throughout most of the eastern U.S.
Tickets to the Grand Rapids Public Museum may be purchased here.