19 February 2016

Ice age walrus skull pulled from Bay of Fundy

New Brunswick Museum says skull found by St. Mary's First Nation crew is 9,000 to 10,000 years old

CBC News

Scallop fishermen have dragged more than they bargained for out of the Bay of Fundy near Saint John, pulling up a walrus skull that dates back to the ice age.

"It just came up on the dragger and I just thought it was a piece of stick at first," said Todd Paul, a fisherman from St. Mary's First Nation.

"It's pretty cool."

The skull was pulled from the waters about 2.5 kilometres off of Cape Spencer.

"We were guessing what it was," he said. "Once we seen a tusk coming out of it, I knew it was like a walrus of some kind."

Figuring they had found something special, they called the New Brunswick Museum when they returned to shore.

Museum officials determined that the skull is 9,000 to 10,000 years old.

"It's part of the ice age fun of New Brunswick," said Randy Miller, the curator of geology and paleontology at the New Brunswick Museum.

"We know that walrus lived here and were part of the Bay of Fundy population at the end of the ice age."

The last time that a walrus was spotted in New Brunswick was believed to be in the 1700s.

"Nine thousand years ago, glaciers have retreated from New Brunswick at the end of the ice age, but there are certainly probably ice floes and icebergs in the Bay of Fundy," said Miller.

"These animals would have been living in an environment very similar to what they live in in the arctic today."

The museum has three other walrus skulls and other walrus bones recovered in New Brunswick since around 1900.

Those specimens have been radio carbon-dated to be about 9,000 to 10,000 years old, said Miller.

However, he said, the discovery from the St. Mary's crew's is a "significant addition" to the provincial collection.

St. Mary's First Nation decided to donate the walrus skull to the museum.

"It should be something that's preserved and seen by the whole province," said Paul.