You're looking up at a full-size replica of the skeleton of a male Columbian mammoth. Mammoths are related to modern Asian elephants. Males stood up to 14 feet tall at the shoulders and may have weighed 10 tons. Females were somewhat smaller.
The vegetation you're looking at in this exhibit is one of the main reasons mammoths lived on the Camas Prairie. Much like elephants of today, mammoths used their trunks to grab nearly 700 pounds of grass, herbs and woody vegetation each day.
Imagine this prairie as it might have looked when mammoths lived here. You'd probably be surprised as how familiar it would seem - short grass-covered prairie with occasional pine, spruce, and fir dotting the foothills.
The only difference would be that you'd see mammoth groups grazing or prehistoric bison drinking out of Three Mile Creek
We're not exactly sure how long ago mammoths live on the Camas Prairie or when they died in Tolo Lake. Mammoths entered North America about 1.5 million years ago, and Columbian mammoths survived until about 12,000 years ago.
No one is sure why so many mammoths died in Tolo Lake. No evidence has been found that humans killed or ate these animals although, according
to Nez Perce Indian oral tradition, there are stories of hunting mammoths. At this time, scientists have found no evidence that mammoths and people were here at the same time.
If people didn't kill the mammoths, what did? Scientists don't really know. The mammoths probably died at Tolo Lake one at a time over hundreds of years. Most likely, mammoths that used Tolo Lake as their watering hole died there as a result of age or illness or became stuck in the lake's sticky mud during droughts or changes in climate.
No Bones About It
After discovery of the bones at Tolo Lake, the all volunteer Tolo Mammoth Replica Group raised money to purchase and erect this mammoth replica made of water-extended polyester resin.
The original tusk is on display at the Bicentennial Historical Museum.