Two sisters made the discovery of a lifetime while on a kayaking trip in Kansas.
Ashley and Erin Watt were kayaking the Arkansas River in the south central part of the state when they noticed something a little out of the ordinary, the Kansas Department of Wildlife, Parks and Tourism (KDWPT) said in a news release.
It was a skull sticking out of a nearby sandbar, buried nose-down, the release said. Intrigued by its unique shape, the sisters pulled the skull — measuring 16 inches long and eight inches wide — out of the sand to find two long, pointy, terrifying teeth.
The sisters began researching skulls to determine what exactly they’d found, sharing their findings on social media.
“We have a grizzly!” Ashley Watt wrote in a Facebook post.
Ashley Watt’s post caught the eye of a KDWPT game warden who shared the photo with colleagues and researchers, the release said. The experts confirmed the Watts’ findings; they had, indeed, stumbled upon a grizzly bear skull.
Recent flooding is believed to have dislodged the skull from the river’s sands, the release said.
“The bear skull was washed out of the same river sediments that routinely produce the skulls and bones of the American bison, some of which could date back as far as the last Ice Age,” Mike Everhart, adjunct curator of paleontology at the Sternberg Museum, said in the release. “Whether it is hundreds or thousands of years old, the skull gives us a better insight into the richness of life on the plains before Western man.”
In a Facebook post, Ashley Watt said the skull is believed to be more than 200 years old.
“This grizzly skull is probably over 200 years old and is one of three skulls of its type found in Kansas last of which was found in the 50’s,” Ashley Watt wrote. “It is also the most complete of the three. The bear probably died of old age, not too far from where we found it, because it would not have been in the excellent condition it is if it had traveled far on the river.”
KDWPT says grizzly bears are no stranger to Kansas and were common throughout the state before the mid-1800s.
“It’s been pretty amazing not only discovering the skull but also the crowd sourcing used to determine how truly exceptional this find is,” Ashley said in the release. “We can’t wait to see what further information can be uncovered about this incredible animal.”
Ashley and Erin donated the skull to the Sternberg Museum in Hays, KDWPT says.