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A mammoth theft

A federal agency wants its wooly mammoth tusk back.

The Bureau of Land Management in Alaska on Tuesday asked the public's help in recovering an approximately 10,000-year-old tusk stolen from the Campbell Creek Science Center, an interpretive centre in east Anchorage.

The woolly mammoth is Alaska's official state fossil. The tusk was on display when the centre was burglarized March 8. Anchorage police say a thief broke in through a window and took only the tusk, which weighs 100 pounds.

The curved tusk is dark- and light-brown, mottled and about 1.7 metres long. The tusk is 20 centimetres in diameter on the large end and 15 centimetres in diameter at the narrow end.

BLM spokeswoman Maureen Clark said the tusk was one of several found in the mid-1980s near the Colville River, which flows into the Arctic Ocean north of the Brooks Range.

"People were allowed to touch it," she said by email. "It was a popular item at the science centre."

Pat Druckenmiller, earth sciences curator at the University of Alaska Museum of the North, said mammoths generally died out at the end of the Pleistocene Era 11,000 to 12,000 years ago. A few survived on islands such as Wrangel Island off northeast Siberia until about 4,000 years ago, he said.

The legal sale of a mammoth tusk depends on whether it's found on private land. A property owner may sell tusks found on their land. Tusks cannot be sold if found on state or federal land.

Druckenmiller said he's not qualified to say how much a tusk could fetch and he's only interested in their scientific value.

"But I'm not naive. There's a market for them. The do sell and they're either used for display as is at home, or there's a thriving trade that carves mammoth ivory," he said.

The BLM is offering a $500 reward for the return of its tusk.



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