Hunting Mammoths in Florida

Hunting Mammoths in Florida

By: Mike Jerrard

If you have ever wanted to actually hold a piece of a mammoth, there is no better place to do so than the Peace River in central Florida. Located in Bone valley, it is aptly named as there have been countless fossilized remains from a multitude of prehistoric animals. Best of all is the ease of which you can become an amateur paleontologist. With just a shovel, a sifting tray, and a mere $5 fossil collecting permit from the state of Florida, you can be on your way to creating your very own museum at home.

There are many river access points as well as  kayak companies located along the river if you would prefer a guided tour. There are dangers associated with the river which include large alligators, poisonous snakes, fire ants, and submerged fallen logs to name a few. It is definitely a river to be respected but with some planning and safety precautions, you can come away with an incredible experience.

I have met some very interesting characters in my many trips to the Peace some of which camped there for months on end making somewhat of a living collecting and selling their finds. Their finds were sometimes quite impressive with such discoveries as large ground sloth claws, sabre toothed cat teeth, mammoth tusks, and jaguar jaws. Florida was even more wild and untamed than it is today.

There have also been countless human artifacts found in the river and surrounding area. Beautifully hand carved spear points and pottery just some of the treasures unearthed. It is asked that should you come across any human artifacts that you leave them where you find them. Your fossil collecting permit does not allow for the collection of human associated relics. You are welcome to keep your animal and plant fossils although it is requested that you report any unusual finds to The Program of Vertebrate Paleontology. The Program has 60 days to request that the finder donate his or her findings after which time they then become the property of the finder. Bear in mind the wealth that important finds can bring to science far outweigh any monetary value they could fetch.

Over the years of my explorations along the Peace River I have been fortunate enough to find large megalodon shark teeth, glyptodon shell fragments, mastodon ivory, prehistoric whale bones, spear points, and much much more. My greatest find however were the remains of a large mammoth along with its baby.

With annual floods and a constantly changing river, each year brings new discoveries and although collecting over the years has depleted much of the larger fossils, they are still out there to be discovered. Late winter is the best time to search as that is when the river is at its lowest making wading and hiking along the river much easier. It is also much easier to spot the gators and snakes at this time. My advice is to search in areas far from the main entry points as those areas are heavily visited by people as well as looking for gravel areas in the river as you won’t find much in the sandy areas.

Peace River Fossils
Glyptodon Scutes
mammoth tooth
Fossil Tapir Molar
Fossil Whale Vertebrae and ear bone
Fossil Dolphin Jaw
Megalodon Tooth
Fossil Dugong rib
Fossil Alligator Jaw & Teeth
Fossil Giant armadillo scute
Fossil Bison teeth
Fossil vasum horridum

Fossil hunting is definitely an art, although anyone can come away with million year old shark teeth on their first outing. As you become more involved you begin to get a sixth sense of what areas will produce great finds. Note that your fossil collecting permit does not allow collecting in state parks nor does it allow trespassing on private property.

I cannot recommend Mark Renz’s book, ” Fossiling in Florida” enough. It contains a wealth of information which will have you eager to literally get your feet wet and start digging. It is his amazing findings over the years which inspired me to move to Florida for five years and follow in his footsteps. You can purchase a copy along with gain more insight into fossil hunting in the Peace River on his website: www.fossilexpeditions.com.

Two other books that are a must are:

Florida’s Fossils- Guide to Location, Identification, and Enjoyment, by Robin C. Brown. This book has a great fossil identification guide along with valuable maps.

The Fossil Vertebrates of Florida, by Richard Hulbert Jr. A much more complex and detailed book, this has a wealth of information for the more advanced collector.

You can purchase your Florida Fossil Permit at : www.flmnh.ufl.edu

 

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Author: Michael Jerrard

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13 Comments

  1. Interesting article. The dangers you mention are a bit off putting and I’ll probably stick to a tour. I’ve never had much luck fossicking anyhow.

    Post a Reply
    • Thanks for your comment. Definitely difficult fossicking and it seems to only be getting more difficult as the years go by.

  2. This is such a different thing to do- your article has enticed me, I want to do this!! How long does the permit last for? I need to get myself to Florida!

    Post a Reply
    • The $5 permit is good for one year and it is recommended that should you wish to renew, you do so 3-4 weeks before the expiry date of your current one. Definitely takes a lot of time and effort to make big finds but really worth it to discover and hold a piece of prehistoric history. Happy hunting and good luck!!

    • Thanks for the kind comment. Happy travels to you as well.

  3. Thanks and it’s an interesting article. Somehow the two words Florida and Mammoth doesn’t seem match and it’s always nice to know something new. Actually, the nature in Florida has a lot to explore @ knycx.journeying

    Post a Reply
    • Florida is such a diverse place when it comes to nature and wildlife as well as such a rich history. I was happy to call it my home for many years.

    • Thanks for the comment. I am sure the Florida Museum of Natural History in Gainsville would be able to assist with identification as well as many guides such as the ones listed at the bottom of the post. Fossils found generally range from the Miocene, Pliocene, and Pleistocene epochs which cumulatively range from about 23 million years ago to 12,000 years ago.

  4. I started fossil hunting this year and went out with Mark Renz as my guide. I can not begin to tell you the excitement one has in finding these treasures for yourself ! Mark’s guided tours are anew and great adventure for everyone looking for a new vacation adventure. I have found a variety of items, each new find has a new level of knowledge, appreciation of history and nature. From shark teeth, to whale vertebrae, to Giant land tortoise , whale teeth, dolphin teeth and much more. Go out once and you’ll be hooked !

    Post a Reply
    • You cannot ask for a better guide than Mark. Thanks for spreading the word just how fun this activity can be.

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