Campbell Creek Science Center offers reward for information on stolen mammoth tusk

Someone stole a 10,000-year-old mammoth bone from the Campbell Creek Science Center in March. They’re now offering a $500 reward for information. (Erin McKinstry, Alaska Public Media)

Outside the Campbell Creek Science Center, a line of kids sings a call-and-response song with their camp counselor as they follow him down a path. They’re part of a summer camp at the Center that teaches kids about the outdoors and wildlife. But this summer’s campers are missing out on a hefty piece of Alaska’s history that campers and visitors enjoyed in the past.

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In March, someone stole a 10,000-year-old mammoth tusk from the Center. On Tuesday, the Bureau of Land Management (BLM), which owns the Center, announced that it’s offering a $500 reward to anyone with information leading to the recovery of the missing 100-pound tusk.

Inside the Center, Kids and counselors mill about grabbing backpacks as they head outside. BLM spokesperson Maureen Clark points to a corner of the Center’s classroom where the five-foot-long tusk used to sit on top of a counter. It’s now been replaced by two blue plastic bins.

“People could come up and touch it,” Clark said.

Because the investigation is ongoing, she can’t share much about the theft but says someone stole the tusk in the early morning of March 8th. Police and BLM investigators responded that day.

“It’s important not to release too much information too early in the investigation, otherwise you could risk losing important evidence and suspects early on,” Clark said. “And so, at this point in time, it was a good time to go to the public and ask for help.”

Clark said the tusk was one of several found on BLM land in the Colville River area up on the North Slope in the 1980s. The tusk was polished, restored and put on display. It’s curved and brown and off-white in color.

A photo of the 100-pound mammoth tusk released by the Bureau of Land Management to help identify the tusk if found. (Photo courtesy of the Bureau of Land Management)

“It was on display, really kind of a neat piece, (and) an amazing part of Alaska’s natural history. These animals that used to roam the earth during the ice age left behind their tusks,” Clark said. “It was popular with the kids and with the public.”

Clark said there’s a legal and an illegal market for ivory as well as paleontological resources like the tusk. Nothing else was stolen at the time of the burglary.

Erin McKinstry is Alaska Public Media's 2018 summer intern. She has an M.A. from the University of Missouri's School of Journalism and a B.A. from Knox College. She's reported stories for The Trace, The Midwest Center for Investigative Reporting, Harvest Public Media, the IRE Radio Podcast, KBIA and The Columbia Missourian.

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