...mammoth femur nearly 5 feet long, plus ribs, vertebrae and other bones. I suspected the site was rich, so I contacted FDOT to see if I could excavate. I also notified the Florida Museum of Natural History in Gainesville to see if they would be interested in being the beneficiary of whatever we turned up. Additionally, I wanted to plan an exhibit for the town of LaBelle if we found enough material.

This is the way the FDOT retention pond looked in 1999, when I noticed bone fragments in piles of dirt near the highway.

"Racooning" for fossils.

FDOT was most gracious in allowing the dig to start. South Florida Water Management District also gave the crew a de-watering permit, and D&D Machine and Hydraulics in Fort Myers donated a water pump and fuel.

Before excavation discussions got underway, DOT finished laying pipe in the retention pond and allowed it to fill with water. This is the way it looked when we started December 10, 2002.

The mechanical beast of burden.

The sucking end of the hose is mounted to these floating barrels to keep it off the bottom.

The water is removed from the pond and transferred to a second pond, which then filters into a third pond. The pump has to be run 24 hours a day because of small springs bubbling up.

It had been several years since the bones were first spotted. We had to first determine where the bone-bearing layer began and ended so we would know how much unproductive sediment to remove.

The site from the air.

FLMNH Vertebrate Collections Manager Richard Hulbert and Invertebrate paleontologist Roger Portell take samples of the bone-bearing sediment. Pollen found in fresh-water mollusks may help in determining the age of the site.