In our neighboring city of Port Gibson commercial fishermen Caroline Curtis and Arthur Bell Jr. made an unusual catch in the Big Black River, which empties into the Mississippi.
The two were fishing about "three curves" north of the point where the Big Black joins the Mississippi
Their net snagged on something. "We kept pulling and pulling," Curtis said. "I thought we had snagged a log or something."
When they finally freed and raised their net, they discovered an unusual-looking animal skull in addition to a few fish.
The skull measured nearly 40 inches across the tips of its horns, weighed about 55 pounds and was worn smooth from the flowing river. Its broad flat forehead caused them to study it more closely.
"It's definitely a bison," said paleontology curator George Phillips. But the skull is no ordinary bison. The skull is a Bison Antiqus or ancient bison said Phillips, dating some 25,000 years to the Pleistocene era or what's commonly known as the Ice Age. The animal was the most common large plant-eating mammal in North America of the era.
By coincidence, Curtis and Bell were seeking buffalo -- but the fish, not the mammal, and buffalo is the common nickname for American bison, although scientists say a buffalo is a different animal, native only to Africa and Asia. Curtis' boat also bears the name "Buffalo Lady."
"I've caught a lot of big fish," but never anything like the skull, she said. "I never dreamed I'd catch this kind of buffalo."
Curtis said the skull is by far the most unusual thing she's ever caught. She said she has caught dozens of large fish, including a 65-pound catfish and a 130-pound loggerhead turtle.