March 14, 2008 / 8:30 PM / 11 years ago

Mastodon skeleton awaits sale in California garage

SAN FRANCISCO (Reuters) - California resident Nancy Fiddler has put for sale on eBay a mastodon skeleton that takes up most of her garage. The minimum bid — $115,000.

Surrounded by parts prepared for shipping from her garage, Nancy Fiddler displays a tooth from a mastodon skeleton in Sebastapol, California, March 13, 2008. REUTERS/Robert Galbraith

Her family’s relationship with the Ice Age relative of the elephant has run its course.

Fiddler said they need the money an online auction could bring, and her son would prefer to build hot rod cars in the space the creature now occupies.

The Fiddlers also would like to use their sauna, which in the last four years has served as an additional repository for the huge plastic casts containing the animal’s bones.

“We needed a safe, dry place,” Fiddler said, explaining why they chose to sacrifice the sauna. “The mastodon takes precedence.”

Mastodons, which stood 10 feet tall with trunks and tusks, migrated to North America about 15 million years ago and ranged all over the continent with saber tooth tigers, giant sloths and American camels. All met their extinction about 10,000 years ago.

A ranch hand discovered a mastodon tooth on the Fiddler ranch in northeastern California in 1997. Excavation revealed a rare, nearly complete mastodon skeleton that included everything but the tusks.

“It’s a beautiful specimen,” said paleontological consultant Bruce Hanson, who helped move the skeleton to the Oakland Museum of Natural History, where it was on display for several years.

After the museum made a replica, the Fiddlers moved the mastodon to the tasting room of a California wine bar. Then it found its way to their garage.

One paleontologist said he was skeptical that the Fiddlers would get as much as they want for the mastodon.

“What is it going to do? Sit on someone’s mantle?” said Mark Goodwin of the University of California Museum of Paleontology. “I would prefer to see it donated to a museum. This is our fossil heritage.”

Editing by Xavier Briand

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