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Mammoths Arrive on the Islands

Imagine this possible event : washed out to sea in a storm from some riverís edge, amidst logs and debris, a family of mammoths manage to stay afloat and swim to Anacapa Island. Or, as some scientists suggest, the huge shaggy beasts may have been drawn out to the islands by the smell of vegetation wafting across the less than five mile wide channel.

Mammoth crossing Santa Rosa Island

These mammoths then migrate westwards crossing to the rugged, mountainous Santa Cruz Island, then to Santa Rosa Island, and on to San Miguel Island - at this time all one continuous land mass. They settle among the fertile green rolling hills lush with native vegetation, and multiply, forming many family bands roaming the island.

Try to imagine what their world was like. Ample fresh streams and springs. No predators, such as prehistoric tigers, to fight off. No airplanes crossing overhead, not even any boats passing by the shore. No air pollution being pushed out the island from the mainland cities. The climate is cooler than we now know it, probably wetter. Pine forests cover large tracts of the island. As the years pass, the polar ice caps melt, and the sea water rises, and by 10,500 years ago, the islands begin to be separated by the rising sea levels. First Anacapa is separated from Santa Cruz, then a thousand years later, Santa Rosa and San Miguel are separated from Santa Cruz, and finally San Miguel is separated from Santa Rosa.

The first mammoths that crossed from the mainland to Santarosea were full sized animals, about fourteen feet tall as adults. These were the Imperial Mammoths. As the years went by, the mammoths adapted to the specific islands environment, and became smaller as time proceeded. Eventually they developed a distinctly different body scale, one we now call dwarf or pygmy mammoths, and reached heights of 4-8 feet, significantly smaller than their predecessors. Their tusks were up to five or more feet long, and were five to six inches in diameter.