UNION GROVE, Wis. (AP) _ Archaeologists say they have found the first convincing evidence that ancient Indians hunted mammoths east of the Mississippi.

Scientists excavating the skeletal remains of an extinct mammoth in this town 20 miles southwest of Milwaukee say it appears the animal was hacked the remains with a stone tool.

''If what we believe is happening here holds up to further scrutiny, this would be the first discovery east of the Mississippi River linking paleoindians with a mammoth,'' project director Dan Joyce said this week.

''We've known for many years that they hunted these animals west of the Mississippi, and we've always assumed they hunted them east of the Mississippi,'' Joyce said. ''We've just never had proof. Now we do. It's really exciting.''

Joyce said he expects that up to 80 to 90 percent of the animal's bones could be recovered.

''We won't find enough of the animal to reconstruct it. ... and that's not our main goal, anyway,'' he said. ''Our goal has been to get this animal out and prove there's an association between mammoth and man east of the Mississippi River.''

Joyce, curator of collections and exhibits at the Kenosha Public Museum, said the mammoth unearthed in a farmer's soybean field may be 11,000 years old.

Archeologists have found hunting implements that show ancestral Indians were in North America at least 12,000 years ago, reaching the continent from Siberia when continental ice sheets retreated just enough to allow travel.

The woolly mammoth was a vegetarian, one of several species of mammoth that became extinct as the ice age waned about 10,000 years ago. Mammoths and mastodons are predecessors of the modern elephant.

The 10- to 12-foot-tall, hairy creature at the dig site probably weighed 6 to 8 tons and had 9-foot-long tusks. It was probably in the shallow end of a lake formed by glacial runoff when it met its fate, Joyce said.

The mammoth was either speared by hunters or they may have waited for it to die before butchering it, he said.

''An animal like this was - for the paleoindians - equivalent to having a grocery store fall in their lap,'' Joyce said. ''It provided a lot of food.''