In the last of this series about cryptozoology from the area around Sochi, Russia, we discuss whether there may be any wooly mammoths still roaming the wilderness of the Caucasus Mountains. While the Olympics unfold onscreen, could a tremendous zoological secret be hiding not far away?
Scientists believe the wooly mammoths died out at the end of the last Ice Age. They are still finding preserved bodies and body parts in the frozen tundra around the world, but so far, no one has seen one of these great monsters in ages.
That is, unless you believe the story told by Grigory Tilov who claims he crossed paths with two wooly mammoths at the base of Mount Elbrus. This mountain is the tallest peak in the Caucasus Mountain range, topping 18,000 + feet (5.5 km). Tilov’s sighting took place in 1936.
The story goes that Tilov, who was a mountaineer back then, wanted to scale parts of Mount Elbrus one day in the summer of 1936. On his way he caught sight of two small wooly mammoths moving slowly along. He estimated they were about 300 feet (91 m) from him. He had binoculars with him that afforded him an even clearer look at the animals. He was sure they were wooly mammoths.
The animals didn’t pay any attention to him, but continued their walk. They got to within 50 feet of Tilov (15 m) and he could see more detail. Sadly, he noted they seemed extremely undernourished because they were so thin. They were losing great swaths of hair and they moved almost painfully slow.
Tilov did have a rifle with him but he reported that he had no intention of shooting the poor animals. He thought they may be the last of their kind and was content to let them live out their lives as best they could.
Tilov’s story was recorded in 1967 by Felix Ziegel (Ph.D. at the Moscow Aviation Center). Ziegel (photo right) participated in the Soviet Union’s first organized study of the UFO phenomenon. Even though Tilov’s story was about wooly mammoths, it seems Ziegel must have been interested in other cryptozoological topics besides UFOs. Thanks to him, we have this record of what may have been the last sighting of living wooly mammoths in the world.
Also, during World War II, a Soviet Air Force pilot reported seeing some wooly mammoths on the frozen wastelands of Siberia as he flew over them.
On the other side of the world, in Alaska in 1946, the French charge d’affaire M. Gallon revealed a tale he learned from a Russian fur-trapper twenty five years earlier. The trapper told Gallon he had seen great big hairy elephants roaming the taiga of interior Alaska. Gallon reported that the trapper didn’t seem to know what a wooly mammoth was; he just described the animals as huge elephants with hair.
FYI – According to Wiki, “The taiga is the world’s largest terrestrial biome. In North America it covers most of inland Canada and Alaska as well as parts of the extreme northern continental United States (northern Minnesota through the Upper Peninsula of Michigan to Upstate New York and northern New England) and is known as the Northwoods.” It’s also known as an arboreal forest.
In recent times there have been alleged sightings of wooly mammoths in Siberia. According to some researchers, native people living in the far north of these arboreal forests claim to see them from time to time. The problem with that, though, is these animals need a huge area to roam and search for food. Science tells us that the plants they ate on the ancient tundra aren’t the same today as they were then. So it would be very hard for them to survive for that reason alone.
Also in today’s world migrating herds of wooly mammoths would surely be recorded by someone, somewhere, as well as by satellite imagery.
For these reasons, I think it’s unlikely that wooly mammoths still roam our planet. But I still hope I’m wrong and that one day, someone comes up with a great photo or video that rocks the scientific world!
Til the next time!
PS – In 1967 Lassie had her own adventure with a wooly mammoth!