A hungry polar bear ransacked a scientists’ campsite in the Arctic and stole a 50,000-year-old frozen woolly mammoth’s leg.
Woken at 4am by strange noises in their camp, the Russian academics couldn’t believe their eyes when they saw the beast making away with the preserved limb.
By frantically shouting and firing flare shots into the air, the team managed to scare the bear away who dropped its meal.
The specimen that was still covered in mud and discovered on Kotelny island and was dubbed the ‘find of the year’.
Named the ‘Golden Mammoth’ because of the color of its well-preserved hair, the front leg and a shoulder were taken from a frozen carcass of the mini-mammoth in a permafrost seabed on the island.
Mammoth expert Dr Albert Protopopov said: “At about 4 am our research fellow Semyon Yakovlev woke from noise.
“I looked out of the tent, and there was a polar bear.
“It grabbed the mammoth’s leg with his teeth and dragged it out of the permafrost (where scientists had stored their find).
“Semyon shouted, and we jumped up.
“We began to make noise, rattled utensils, shouted, shot several times from the flare gun
“And finally, the bear ran away.”
It is hoped analysis of the limb will prove the existence of a separate species of pygmy mammoths, reported The Siberian Times citing Russian scientists.
The bulk of the well-preserved frozen predator will be excavated next year but scientists took several body parts to begin analysis.
They also found the skull of a woolly rhinoceros – the most northerly ever found – on the island between the Laptev and East Siberian seas.
‘When we took a clump of hair, washed it, we saw how it began to shine gold, a very beautiful sight.
‘The members of our expedition are still impressed.
‘It’s not grey, as usual (with mammoths).
‘It is the first time we have seen such beauty.’
The coloring is seen on a picture of the full carcass still encased in the sea bed.
Dr Protopopov’s theory is that this mammoth – less than half the usual size of 16ft for the species – is neither a baby nor a runt perhaps born at the time the creatures faced extinction.
He suspects there was a separate species or subspecies of small-sized mammoths.
“I believe that this mammoth is related to the period of the heyday of the species,” he said.
“Our theory is that in this period the mammoths rose in number significantly and this led to the biggest diversity of their forms.
“So, we want to check this theory.”
He admitted: “We are yet to discover whether this is an anomaly, or something quite typical for this area – when a grown-up mammoth looks like a pygmy.
“We have had reports about small mammoths found in that particular area, both grownups and babies.
“But we had never come across a carcass.
“This is our first chance to study it.”
Mary Greeley News