Extinct species of bison found at Old Vero Site

Posted at 7:00 PM, May 05, 2016
and last updated 2016-05-06 07:52:09-04

Nestled in between the county administration buildings in Vero Beach, the Old Vero site has long provided a glimpse into our past.

Now, another piece to that puzzle.

Field excavator Richie Rosencrance is at the center of it all.

He's exploring the site with a team of researchers from Florida Atlantic University.

“It was getting towards the end of the season, it's long, we were tired, and we hadn't really found much,” he says.

But on May 1, persistence paid off in the form of an extinct species of bison.

“'Alex look, it's bone!’” Richie recalls telling his research partner. “She said ‘uhhh...I'm not sure'. I'm like ‘Guys...this is definitely bone!’”

The bison was estimated to be 8 feet tall, 4,000 pounds, 13,000 years old.

Dozens of bone fragments have been carefully unearthed so far.

Andy Henmings is the lead archaeologist on the project.

“Most certainly is a labor of love, because you have to be mildly crazy to do this kind of stuff.”

Now, his team is trying to answer the big questions like how did an animal whose remains are rarely found on land in Florida end up here?

Also, do the clues in the bones show that this guy was once someone's dinner?

“A great number of them are burned, and there are pieces of charcoal embedded in the sediment right with them,” Hemmings says.

The bison has gained headlines lately with a bill currently on the president's desk that would make it the new national mammal.

Richie said he's glad to do his part in giving folks a better glimpse of the bison's place in history, both locally and nationwide.

“I think it's easy to see that it's a very meritable creature, it's quite amazing,” Richie said.

The team expects to finish documenting the find sometime this weekend.