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Nine-year-old boy finds bison fossil in James River

ADRIAN, N.D. -- Anders Parenteau, 9, his father, Jason, and brother, Wyatt, decided to venture outdoors to explore the terrain surrounding the James River on Sunday. While Anders was playing in the splashing waters, he discovered a large skull fo...

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Anders Parenteau, 9, of Adrian, N.D., found a bison skull fossil while exploring the terrain around the James River Sunday with his family. Alexandria Cremer/Forum News Service

ADRIAN, N.D. - Anders Parenteau, 9, his father, Jason, and brother, Wyatt, decided to venture outdoors to explore the terrain surrounding the James River on Sunday. While Anders was playing in the splashing waters, he discovered a large skull fossil.

After calling his brother and father over to see what he’d found, the trio pulled the fossil out from its resting place in the river to take a closer look.
Clint Boyd, senior paleontologist for the North Dakota Geological Survey, confirmed the skull was a bison skull after reviewing photos of the fossil.
Boyd said the skull was from a bison that once roamed with the modern species of American bison, a geologically younger species of bison. Boyd said the fossil could be from as little as 100 years old to as many as 2,000 years old.
Scientifically, this species is labeled as a “bison bison,” Boyd said.
The older species of bison, scientifically known as the bison antiquus, has very large horns that typically point straight out to the sides rather than curving backward, Boyd said. This species of bison went extinct about 20,000 years ago, Boyd said.
“There’s an overall trend in bison in time where the animal gets smaller and the horns also reduce in size,” he said.
From horn to horn, the bison skull measures 25.5 inches, said Darbie Parenteau, Anders’ mother.

Jason Parenteau said he and his boys have been exploring around the river for years and have found other bones, including what they assumed were horse or cow bones, but nothing like this.
“When the water level is decent, it’s really low right now, you can sometimes find neat stuff like that,” Jason said.
Jason said the family has also found arrowheads in the area surrounding his home.
The family plans to clean, sterilize and preserve the skull bone and hang it in Anders’ room, which Anders said he is very excited for.
Boyd said the State Historical Society of North Dakota frequently has patrons bringing in bison material, including horns and pieces of skulls, but it’s rare to find a complete skull, such as Anders’ find, he said.
“It’s a nice skull,” Boyd said.
Anders said he is looking forward to adventuring around the James River again on pursuit for more fossils.
Boyd said he encourages Anders to do so.
“If he’s getting bison material out there, he should keep his eyes open for anything else that might come out,” Boyd said.

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