This mammoth species was first recorded in (possibly 150,000 years old) deposits of the second last glaciation in Eurasia. They were derived from steppe mammoths (Mammuthus trogontherii).
It disappeared from most of its range at the end of the pleistocene, however on Wrangel Island it survived until roughly 1,700 B.C.
Or did it?
There have been occasional claims that the woolly mammoth is not actually extinct, and that small isolated herds might survive in the vast and sparsely inhabited tundra of the northern hemisphere. In the late nineteenth century, there were, according to Bengt Sjögren (1962), persistent rumours about surviving mammoths hiding in Alaska. In October 1899, a story about a man named Henry Tukeman detailed his having killed a mammoth in Alaska and that he subsequently donated the specimen to the Smithsonian Institution in Washington, D.C. However, the museum denied the existence of any mammoth corpse and the story turned out to be a hoax. Sjögren (1962) believes the myth was started when the American biologist C.H. Townsend traveled in Alaska, saw Eskimos trading mammoth tusks, asked if there still were living mammoths in Alaska and provided them with a drawing of the animal.
In the 19th century, several reports of "large shaggy beasts" were passed on to the Russian authorities by Siberian tribesman, but no scientific proof ever surfaced. A French charge d´affaires working in Vladivostok, M. Gallon, claimed in 1946 that in 1920 he met a Russian fur-trapper that claimed to have seen living giant, furry "elephants" deep into the taiga. Gallon added that the fur-trapper didn't even know about mammoths before, and that he talked about the mammoths as a forest-animal at a time when they were seen as living on the tundra and snow (Sjögren, 1962).
Cossack Ermak Timofeyevich was traveling among tribes on the Eastern side of the Ural mountains and heard stories about large hairy elephants. The natives used these for food referring to them by the name 'mountain of meat.'
During WW2 there was an aerial sighting of a mammoth over Alaska (1944).
I recall having a very old book as a child called Mysteries of the Earth. It was really very old, from around 1950 or probably earlier I would assume, and was full of mysteries. It had ESP, Foo Fighters, Time Travel, Ghosts, Undiscovered lands, and an entire chapter devoted to the possibility of living mammoth. There were many sightings in that book, several from naturalists who had even done sketches of the behemoths.
To this day the thought of a living mammoth has stayed with me, although the book long ago disappeared I have always elt excitment and intrigue when I think of the prospect of the living mammoths.
My friend, Emma Donovan, is studying to become a paleontologist, and strongly believes in the possibility of living mammoth.
Does anyone have any other sightings or information? I would be extremely grateful to hear your opinion on this enduring mystery.
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Edited by Undeadskeptic, 14 March 2008 - 04:17 PM.