Like other large carnivores, the Black Bear (Ursus americanus) was gone from Illinois by the mid to late 1800s. Queto (Luella) J. Rennier of Champaign found this Black Bear cranium in the Embarras River in Jasper County and donated it to the Illinois State Museum in 2012. One of the bear’s teeth was sampled in order to obtain an age. The bear dates to about A.D. 1760, or 250 years before present, just before the American Revolutionary War and the signing of the Declaration of Independence.
Objects come to the Illinois State Museum in a variety of ways, and serendipity often plays a part. Tony Blisset of Springfield found a vertebra of a Harlan’s Muskox (Bootherium bombifrons) while splashing in the Sangamon River with his family in 2012. The find was extremely rare and raised the number of known Harlan’s Muskoxen in Illinois to 13. A few years earlier, Lincoln College student Judd McCullum found a tusk, jawbone, and molar of a Wooly Mammoth (Mammuthus primigenius) during a biology class outing in 2005.