6-year-old boy finds historic mastodon tooth in Rochester Hills creek

Tooth will be donated to University of Michigan’s Museum of Paleontology for research

A 6-year-old out on a walk with his family earlier this month found something on the ground in Rochester Hills
A 6-year-old out on a walk with his family earlier this month found something on the ground in Rochester Hills

ROCHESTER HILLS, Mich. – A 6-year-old boy was out on a walk with his family in September when he made the incredible discovery of a mastodon tooth at the Dinosaur Hill Nature Preserve in Rochester Hills.

The nature preserve is a place where kids are encouraged to explore all things nature, and that’s exactly what happened when Julian found a piece of Michigan history.

“I just felt something on my foot and I grabbed it up, and it kind of looked like a tooth,” Julian said.

At first, the family thought it was your standard rock, and given the name of the nature center, maybe even a dinosaur tooth. However, after a quick internet search, they realized it belonged to a mastodon.

“At first I thought I was going to get money. I was gonna get a million dollars,” Julian said.

But that’s not what happened next. Researchers at the University of Michigan Museum of Paleontology confirmed the family’s hunch. It is a rare discovery.

“I’m a little jealous, personally, because finding fossils is something that I wish I could do every day,” said Abby Drake, docent at the University of Michigan’s Museum of Natural History.

The museum has a rare exhibit on mastodons, and while it is known as the state’s fossil, finding what’s left of them is hard to come by.

“It’s hard to be preserved as a fossil. When an animal dies, most of the time it is scavenged,” Drake said.

Julian’s father wanted to throw the tooth back, but both Julian and the nature center believe a valuable lesson can be learned from all of this.

“The great thing about nature is you never know what you’re going to find, and that even if you are an expert, it doesn’t mean that you’re going to be the one to find things,” Amanda Felk, program director with Dinosaur Hill Nature Preserve, said.

Mastodons date back to 12,000 years ago, and this discovery is a nod to both history and the future.

“I really wanted to be an archaeologist, but I think that was a sign that I’m going to be a paleontologist,” Julian said.

Julian is donating the tooth to the University of Michigan Museum of Paleontology and will get a behind the scenes tour.

The paleontologist are estimating the tooth came from a younger mastodon, maybe in its 20s. Once they get the tooth, they can do more research but there is no plan for it to go on display in the near future.

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About the Author:

Megan Woods is thrilled to be back home and reporting at Local 4. She joined the team in September 2021. Before returning to Michigan, Megan reported at stations across the country including Northern Michigan, Southwest Louisiana and a sister station in Southwest Virginia.