Back in July we brought you the story of the local family that made a very unique find while enjoying a day on Sullivan Lake.

Michael Bleau and his family were moving a swim platform on Sullivan Lake near Fenton when the came upon something strange...and large. After pulling the object to the surface they found they had stumbled, literally, upon a large skull of what looked to a elk. Not just any elk, but one the had walked in the area hundreds of years ago.

Now, their incredible find is on display at the Cranbrook Institute of Science. Cranbrook is reopening this week after being closed amid COVID-19 restrictions, and the skull is a new display feature.The massive skull of an extinct elk that roamed southeast Michigan roughly 220 years ago is considered one of their rarest paleontology finds to be shown.

The Bleau family turned the 43-inch wide, 50-inch tall and 24-inch deep skull over to Cranbrook for evaluation and preservation shortly after it was discovered knowing it was something special. “It’s magnificent,” Museum Director Mike Stafford said. “We have spent about three weeks preserving it after it’s been on the bottom of a lake for a couple hundred years.”

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According to Stafford, the Eastern elk probably met its demise by getting stuck in the muck while drinking from the lake or could have broken through the ice while crossing the lake and drowned. An adult bull would have weighed up to 1,000 pounds and stood 50-60 inches tall at the shoulders.

The elk skull wasn't the only new discovery made in the area this summer.Cranbrook also was able to identify two lumbar vertebrae from a baleen whale found in an Atlas Township riverbed this summer by two Ortonville sisters as well. That find is a little puzzling. “It’s a mystery how you get whale bones there when they shouldn’t be, but they were probably moved by people,” Stafford said, hypothesizing that they could have been misplaced by members of the Hopewell culture, who were migrating from areas near the ocean. “It’s a real head-scratcher.”

If you want to check out the display featuring the elk, Cranbrook Institute of Science reopened to members August 19 and will open to the general public August 26. All guests will receive free general admission through Sept. 6 courtesy of MASCO Corporation Foundation. For more information, visit


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