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Students unearth mammoth skull and tusks in Idaho

When a volunteer fossil hunter for the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation spotted a mammoth skeleton in Idaho, students and instructors from Idaho State University began excavating the remains. Portions of the mammoth's skull and tusks have already been unearthed — and experts think the site may include a complete mammoth skeleton, which would be a rare find.

The skeleton was found near the American Falls Reservoir and is thought to be that of a Columbian mammoth. Experts believe the mammoth was 16 years old when it died, and it lived between 70,000 and 120,000 years ago.

(AP Photo/Dave Walsh)

Whether or not the find is indeed a complete skeleton remains to be seen, though — the students couldn't finish the excavation because the reservoir has filled up with water since the skeleton was found. The workers created a barrier to keep the remaining fossils intact while they are underwater, and the team will return to the site next summer when the water level is lower.

This isn't the first time the location has produced a valuable find — Mary Thompson, collections manager at the Idaho Museum of Natural History, told The Associated Press that fossils from saber-toothed cats, giant sloths, bison latifrons, and short-nosed bears have been found in the American Falls area. "It's a very important North American Pleistocene site," Thompson told AP. She hopes that the skull and tusk fossils that have been unearthed will be ready for display in early 2015.