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ELLIS COUNTY, Texas — Wayne McEwen accidentally stumbled on a prehistoric skeleton at his property in Ellis County. He donated the discovery to the Perot Museum of Nature and Science.

"I was surprised that there was so many people that would be interested in coming out and being a part of digging something like this," McEwen said.

Paleontologists and a team of volunteers with the Perot Museum of Nature and Science will spend the next few weeks meticulously working to reveal the complete skeleton of a Columbian mammoth.

"A specimen like this gives us such great opportunity to be able to get that nice, accurate, more fleshed-out picture of what these animals were like," said Perot Museum paleontologist Dr. Ron Tykoski.

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The massive beast is believed to be between 20,000 and 60,000 years old. The prehistoric fossil came within inches of destruction, but McEwen's son Marty spotted a portion of a tusk while operating an excavator. He knew he had found something very special.

"I knew there was stuff on the property; I never had any idea there was a full skeleton." McEwen said. "If I had actually dug into the sand, I would have torn up both tusks and the skull."

Workers will spend the next few weeks wrapping the bones in plaster and burlap, eventually moving them to a lab where they will study the fossils for years to come.

Those findings should offer insight into how the mammoth lived, and perhaps more importantly, how they died.

"What about this planet had changed to cause these animals to go extinct?" Dr. Tykoski asked. "And should we be looking out for those same sorts of pressures in the future, to make sure we don't share their fate?"

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