Most important discoveries are found after digging deep into the earth. One never thinks to look up. But that’s what happened when scientists drove by the Biddle Farm in northern Illinois and saw the large main beam of a set of antlers hanging in a garage. It was too big to be a deer or elk, so they stopped to take a look. What they discovered were antlers of an extinct Stag-Moose, an animal that died over 10,000 years ago. The family found the fossil while digging an irrigation pond years before but didn’t immediately recognize its significance. The family from Elburn donated the find to the Illinois State Museum in 1989.
The Stag-Moose had flattened “palmated” antlers like a modern moose and a face that looked more like that of an elk. They lived in North America, Europe, and Siberia during the Pleistocene Epoch, roaming not far from the edge of the ice sheets that reached south into central Illinois. The deposits where fossils have been found suggest they lived in swamps and wetlands, similar to habitats preferred by moose today. The painting is an approximation of a site near Tonica, Illinois, where a portion of a Stag-Moose skeleton was excavated prior to the construction of Interstate 39. The Stag-Moose pictured is the artist’s approximation of what the animal and the site looked like 16,000 years ago.