Piper Pontius lets Scout get another taste of the really old tooth the yellow Labrador retriever found in the backyard of her grandfather, Kirk Lacewell. “It does have a smell, a musty smell,” she said. (Photo by Patricia Guthrie/Whidbey News Group)

Piper Pontius lets Scout get another taste of the really old tooth the yellow Labrador retriever found in the backyard of her grandfather, Kirk Lacewell. “It does have a smell, a musty smell,” she said. (Photo by Patricia Guthrie/Whidbey News Group)

Puppy makes mammoth discovery in Langley backyard

‘Scout’ digs up 13,000-year-old tooth

A yellow pup named Scout recently discovered a mighty old and odorous bone in his backyard near downtown Langley.

What Scout’s dad, owner Kirk Lacewell, thought was a rock in his puppy’s mouth turned out to be a small part of a fossilized tooth from a woolly mammoth.

University of Washington paleontologists estimate the tooth to be about 13,000 years old, when the furry tusked creatures roamed Whidbey Island.

“Quite a few mammoth teeth and some bones have been found on Whidbey, which is largely composed of Ice Age sediments,” said Elizabeth A. Nesbitt, curator of paleontology at UW’s Burke Museum.

Scout, an energetic and extra-friendly yellow Labrador retriever, was a mere 5-month-old baby old when he sunk his teeth into the tidbit of old tooth — a whole tooth would be twice the size of Scout’s head.

Apparently, it’s a really, really smelly and tasty tooth. Because when Lacewell recently took out the tooth from its safe place in the closet, Scout lunged for it.

“It does smell, I can smell something musty on it,” declared Lacewell’s granddaughter, Piper Pontius.

Her grandfather then described the discovery.

“About two months ago I saw him carrying what looked like a rock around the yard and didn’t give it any thought,” Lacewell said.

“When I saw him carrying it the next day I became interested, as he has never had any interest in rocks. I took it from him and at first I thought that it was a piece of petrified wood, something I collect.

“I washed it and decided that it wasn’t petrified wood. It took a couple of weeks to really dry out, but as it did it started looking like bone to me.”

Lacewell measured it and sent off detailed photos to the Burke Museum.

Nesbitt consulted with two colleagues who concurred the pup had struck prehistoric pay dirt, so to speak.

Nesbitt replied to Lacewell that it looked like a worn, fossilized tooth of a woolly mammoth.

The lumbering veggie-eating predecessor of the Asian elephant roamed the Earth for tens of thousands of years before becoming extinct.

With the scientific name of Mammuthus primigenius, the woolly mammoth lived in the late Pleistocene period, which started about 1.8 million years ago and ended just 10,000 years ago with the last Ice Age.

Woolly mammoths lived in the cold of the tundra. Columbian mammoths, which were much larger, preferred the more temperate regions of southern and central North America.

All mammoths stem from an ancestral species, the African mammoth, that lived in northern Africa and disappeared about 3 or 4 million years ago.

Columbian mammoths, Mammuthus columbi, are the most common species of mammoth fossil found in this part of Washington state, according to the Burke Museum.

An Island County Historical Museum permanent exhibit includes the story of mammoths and mammoth hunters.

Many of the bones on display were collected by amateur paleontologist, Dale Conklin, Whidbey’s “mammoth hunter.”

“Mammoths and mastodons both roamed throughout the area that was south of the ice sheets during the Ice Age,” Nesbitt said in an interview.

“They had to have a lot to eat so had to be in the area that was without ice.”

Many believe that mammoths disappeared because of a change in climate, disease, hunting by humans, or perhaps some combination of these, according to the University of California Paleontology Museum.

Lacewell says he plans to keep his dog’s discovery in a display shadow box as it’s not rare enough to be a museum piece.

The experts, though, were still impressed.

“Nice find,” enthused Nesbitt. “Good dog!”

With her grandfather, Kirk Lacewell, Piper Pontius plays with Scout who she says is bound for canine stardom since making a mammoth discovery in the backyard. (Photo by Patricia Guthrie/Whidbey News Group)

With her grandfather, Kirk Lacewell, Piper Pontius plays with Scout who she says is bound for canine stardom since making a mammoth discovery in the backyard. (Photo by Patricia Guthrie/Whidbey News Group)

Kirk Lacewell looks at the fossilized tooth of a mammoth estimated to be 13,000 years old by University of Washington paleontologists. (Photo by Patricia Guthrie/Whidbey News Group)

Kirk Lacewell looks at the fossilized tooth of a mammoth estimated to be 13,000 years old by University of Washington paleontologists. (Photo by Patricia Guthrie/Whidbey News Group)

The fragment of woolly mammoth tooth found by Scout is about six inches long. (Photo provided)<address>
                                </address>

The fragment of woolly mammoth tooth found by Scout is about six inches long. (Photo provided)

More in News

Island Drug moves back to Clinton

Nearly a month after closing the doors to its Ken’s Korner location,… Continue reading

Suspect crashes car while trying to flee State Patrol

An Oak Harbor man is accused of leading a Washington state trooper… Continue reading

Smoothie biz opens on Pioneer

Scott and Calysta Webb long dreamed of running a business. Originally, they… Continue reading

Driver cited after driving into Whidbey Coffee wall

At 11 a.m. Thursday, a cream-colored Acura sedan careened up a curb… Continue reading

NAS Whidbey SAR rescues three off Snowking Mountain

A Search and Rescue team from Naval Air Station Whidbey Island rescued… Continue reading

Former council candidate accused of making threat

A former candidate for Oak Harbor City Council was recently arrested for… Continue reading

Photo by Kira Erickson/Whidbey News-Times
                                Artist Christine Crowell hangs a mosaic piece of hers in the window of Artworks Gallery.
Art gallery opening Aug. 1

A new art gallery has threaded its way into Langley, just in… Continue reading

Chamber gets new director

The Greater Oak Harbor Chamber of Commerce Executive Board named Vicki Graham… Continue reading

Top: Scott McMullen, Greg Gilday, Suzanne Woodard.
                                Bottom: Angie Homola, Ivan Lewis.
Four Democrats, lone Republican vie for House seat

Responding to the myriad effects and after-effects of the COVID-19 pandemic will… Continue reading

Most Read