Program delivers audience to the age of mastodons

| 30 Sep 2011 | 09:21

Chester — The Chester Historical Society recently hosted a program, presented by naturalist Gary Keeton, that transported the audience back 14,500 years into the past to the way Orange County was during the Pleistocene Era, a time that supported mastodons locally. In 2008, Glen Keeton, son of Gary, was in a canoe with a friend, Chris Connallon, on the Wallkill River. The bank had been eroded away and Glen noticed an embedded round object just above the level of the water that could have been an end view of a mastodon tusk or an exposed prehistoric tree trunk. Either would be significant. The NY State Museum was contacted and different scientists, paleontologists, botanists, and more, with the permission and help of landowner Lester Lain, examined the site and in 2009 decided it was important to extract this tusk that lay buried six feet below grade. After waiting nearly a year for the level of the water to recede enough, within a span of three days the tusks were completely removed, wrapped in aluminum foil and plastered for safe removal. They were transported to the New York State Museum in Albany. The site was then restored with native vegetation. This was the first scientifically excavated mastodon recovery site in Orange County, which has the more mastodon bones recovered than any other region in the world. One tusk was missing a large portion, having been eroded by the river. The other was recovered complete, and at 9-and-a-half feet, is the second largest tusk found in New York State. By Norma Stoddard, newly elected president of the Chester Historical Society