Lebanon Reporter

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June 27, 2006

Fishermen find walrus skull off Cape Cod

Boat hooks bone far from species' habitat

GLOUCESTER, Mass. — A trio of Gloucester fishermen hauled in an unusual catch off the coast of Cape Cod this month: a walrus skull.

The crew of the 78-foot-long Midnight Sun snagged the upper part of the skull with the vessel’s groundfish net 300 feet down off Nausett’s Beach on June 13.

“We’ve never seen anything like that,” said vessel owner and skipper Tom Testaverde Sr., 50. The crew consists of his son Tom Testaverde Jr., 21, and Bobby Gross, 45.

Many active and retired fishermen along the Gloucester waterfront who have netted human and whale bones, bombs, shipwrecks and even pocketbooks have also never heard of anyone ever pulling up the bones of a walrus.

These creatures inhabit the Arctic Ocean and the North Atlantic as far south as the Canadian territory of Labrador and can grow to be 10 feet long and weigh 3,000 pounds.

At 2 p.m. that Tuesday, the crew hauled in its fishing gear after a five-hour tow and emptied the 800-pound catch of cod, haddock and flatfish on deck for sorting. The captain looked at his son, Gross and the catch as they prepared to reset the gear:

“What the (heck) is that?” Tom Testaverde Sr. asked. It was a skull section approximately 5 inches wide with a pair of tusks about a foot long.

“It was just laying flat on the catch. I told the boys that maybe it belonged to a walrus or a saber-toothed tiger,” he said.

The crew gently wrapped the skull in a towel and stored it in the wheelhouse for the rest of the trip.

Several photos of the skull section were then e-mailed to Judy Chupasko, curatorial associate of Harvard University’s Museum of Comparative Zoology. She identified the upper skull as the premaxillary section or part of the maxillary with canines (tusks) and confirmed it is a walrus.

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