Hunting Mammoths: Past, Present, Future

Hunting Woolly Mammoth, CC BY-SA 4.0

Powered by RedCircle

The Woolly Mammoth is one of the most iconic animals to have roamed the earth. It really is the perfect poster child of a bygone era. A large, hairy elephant wandering the plains of northern Russia and North America, symbolizing both the climate of the Ice Age, and the sense of wonder one gets when thinking about such a massive creature in a place where nothing like it exists anymore. 

But deeper than that, when you start looking at the historical record you quickly realize humanity has been captivated by the Mammoth for thousands and thousands of years. No doubt they were once prized for their thick hide, copious amounts of meat, and ivory, as evidenced by remains that bear the marks of human hunting, as well as "Mammoth Traps" we have recently unearthed in a few places around the globe mentioned in the podcast. 

Mammoths are actually still prized to this day for their Ivory despite having been extinct for some time! In 2017, Russia exported over 70 tons of Mammoth Ivory, with most of it going into China. Thats incredible, consider how many animals that means once existed, and also died in such a time and place for the remains to still be discoverable!

Valery Plotnikov, of  the Yakutia Academy of Sciences, near collected tusks in his laboratory on November 28, 2018. Photo: AFP

Mammoth Ivory may well be an important commodity too, as it takes the pressure off populations of Asian and African elephants who are poached for their own tusks with lethal consequences.

Locations of Wrangel Island and St Paul Island, locations of the last known living mammoth. The highlighted areas, were part of the Beringia Land Bridge during the Ice Age

In the Yakutia region of northern Russia, off the coast of the Arctic Ocean, the demand for Mammoth Ivory has created a sort of gold rush and a local economic boom. It's no small feat to go prospecting for Mammoth Tusks either. Consider the remote location, the distance that heavy equipment has to be shipped and the inhospitable climate in which one must work to get it. Much of the recovered ivory is shipped to China and elsewhere around the globe where it can reach values of $1,000 a kilogram. CLICK HERE for more on that story. 

The rush to explore the permafrost has uncovered all sorts of other gems as well in the form of well preserved carcasses of other long extinct animals: 

Frozen Cave Lion cub found in Siberia. It would appear as though their den collapsed on top of them  many thousands of years ago. In this guys case, Scientists were actually able to recover some DNA. Showing that they had much in common with modern African Lions. CLICK HERE for more. Image by Vera Salnitskaya, Siberian Times.

49,000 Lanskaya Horse foal. Scientists found liquid blood along with this one, making it the oldest recovery of blood ever! This project will feature an attempt to "resurrect" the species via modern horses that still live in the region. An important technological practice step for attempting to bring back a Mammoth!  CLICK HERE for more.

18,000 year old puppy! It isn't clear whether it is an early dog or a full blown wolf.  Found in the Yakutsk region., and on display in a museum in Russia. Image by Sergei Fyodorov, AP. CLICK HERE for more.

39,000 year old young mammoth found frozen in the New Siberian Islands. Scientists actually recovered some blood from this specimen, fueling hopes of revival in the future. CLICK HERE for more.

Yukagir Bison found in 2011. It died about 10,500 years ago. CLICK HERE for more. Credit: Boeskorov et al, Integrative Zoology

Woolly Rhinocerous found in 2007. It lived around 39,000 years ago. CLICK HERE for more. Credit: EPA European PressPhoto Agency b.v./ Alamy

The Ice Age is fascinating for a lot of reasons. Not least of all is the MegaFauna that are both familiar and strange. Humanity quite likely grew up in this era, which only adds to appeal to know more. What ended the ice age? And why did all these creatures die out? Some say climate, some say hunting, and some say a comet. In my opinion, the comet idea makes the most sense, whether it was one or many around the time of the "Younger Dryas". I just have a hard time believing that a small band of humans armed with spears drove these beasts to extinction, or that climate change without a comet is sufficient enough enough to explain it all away in such a short time. 

We may never know the real answer, but I enjoyed this subject quite a lot and find the timing of it all to be uncanny. Thanks for checking out Lore and Legends! Be sure to check back here atleast with each podcast episode for new content. If you want to support the podcast and this blog visit

Another thing you can do, is sign up for a Free-Trial of Audible! Click the banner, sign-up and you'll get a free audiobook. You get to keep it even if you cancel the next day and pay nothing! Or consider gifting a subscription for Christmas!  

Below is a list of links to interesting articles and materials that helped me make the podcast and this blog post: