The bones of a juvenile Ice Age Columbian mammoth have been found in a field near Castroville, the first discovery of its kind in California's Monterey County.
The remains were uncovered by earthmoving equipment in December, said Mark Hylkema, Santa Cruz District archaeologist for the state Department of Parks.
The precise location of the find is being kept under wraps to discourage souvenir hunters from damaging, looting or contaminating the site.
Hylkema has specialized in the study of Native American culture on the Central Coast, San Jose Mercury News reports.
Mammoths roamed North America for more than 1 million years and died out about 10,000 years ago, Hylkema said, about the time the first humans began populating the continent.
Meanwhile, he said, "the mystery is bigger than the reality" at the site. There is no complete skeleton to see, just scattered pieces of bone, tooth and tusk. The dig is an unfunded, volunteer effort in "one of the most challenging expeditions I've ever done," because of the logistics and the "absolutely awful" weather.
The property owners want to do spring planting and he and his team, Hylkema said, are racing to finish by next month.
The Pacific Grove Museum of Natural History has mammoth teeth and tusks among its exhibits, said museum executive director Lori Mannell.
The Castroville discovery "is very exciting," she said. "There is potential there for a nice regional find. Where you find one fossil, you can find more," according to Inside Bay Area.