Michigan house’s pond may contain ancient mammoth, mastodon bones

In this Tuesday photo, Steve Dodge shows bones and ivory that he discovered in Summit Township, Mich. Experts from the University of Michigan and Michigan State University have confirmed the bones and ivory are from either a mastodon or a mammoth. (J. Scott Park/Jackson Citizen Patriot via AP)

SUMMIT TOWNSHIP, Mich. (AP) — A house that will soon be up for sale in southern Michigan may have mammoth or mastodon bones at the bottom of its backyard pond.

Steve Dodge found the bones and ivory tusks of a giant elephant-like animal after excavating his backyard to build a pond 10 years ago.

“I knew that rib bone was from nothing I’d ever met before,” Dodge said.

He said he never publicly spoke about the bones until now. But now that he and his wife are moving to Detroit, he said the bones shouldn’t be kept a secret.

Dodge said the rest of the animal likely is at the bottom of the pond.

“Probably the skull, teeth and vertebrae are in that hole,” Dodge said of the pond. “I have every intention of pulling that animal out of the pond, but I owned a business and I just couldn’t do it.”

University of Michigan and Michigan State University experts confirmed the bones and ivory are from either a mastodon or a mammoth, but are unsure of which one without having the teeth.

They said that fossils of both animals are prevalent in the southern two-thirds of Michigan and that the animal found in Dodge’s backyard has been extinct about 10,000 years.

Dodge said mammoth teeth have a flat grinding surface for grass-grazing, while mastodon teeth are cone-shaped cusps for eating leaves and shrubs.

He said if the new owner decides to try and successfully discover more bones, he’d love to know if it’s a mastodon or mammoth.

“Just to hold a piece of ivory that belonged to a native elephant is very cool,” Dodge said. “These pieces are just souvenirs to me, but they’re proof that there is way more still down there.”