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FBI works with RCMP and local museum to return mammoth tusks

After more than 50 years, a pair of mammoth tusks believed to have been discovered somewhere between Calgary and the Yukon border with Alaska, are back in Canada.

Two mammoth tusks have been returned to Canada from the United States, after being recovered during an investigation by the Federal Bureau of Investigation. 

They have been stored safely at the Canadian Museum of Nature's national fossil collections in Gatineau.

According to the FBI, the tusks were acquired illegally by American collector Don Miller. Miller told the FBI he excavated the tusks during a trip that he took between Calgary and the Yukon border with Alaska, back in 1960. Miller transported the tusks across the border, taking them back to his home in Indiana, where they remained until the FBI recovered them in 2014.

"The U.S. Department of State's Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs recognizes that paleontological material is an important link to Canada's cultural heritage, and we are glad to see these specimens have been returned to their rightful country of origin," said U.S. Ambassador to Canada Kelly Craft. "The State Department is proud to work with governments like Canada to actively repatriate cultural property that has been stolen or removed from its country of origin without authorization."

"We are very excited about the opportunity to repatriate these mammoth tusks to Canada and for them to have a new home in the care of the Canadian Museum of Nature," added FBI Legal Attaché in Ottawa Kevin Vorndran. "We are grateful to our partners at the Royal Canadian Mounted Police and at the Embassy of Canada in Washington, D.C., for their assistance to bring this history back to Canada."

Officials at the museum said the five-foot-long curved tusks appear to be in good to fair condition. There is also a smaller tusk fragment. 

Mammoths were large plant-eating elephantids associated with the Ice Age, and commonly found in parts of North America, Asia, Africa and Europe from about 5-million to 5,000 years ago. 

"These are fairly well preserved specimens," said Kieran Shepherd, Curator of Paleobiology at the Canadian Museum of Nature. "We are grateful for the cooperation of the United States government and the FBI in ensuring these pieces of Canada's fossil heritage have been returned."

Miller, who passed away since the 2014 investigation, told investigators that he thought the tusks were from mastodons; however, tests by the museum's fossil experts have determined they belonged to mammoths.

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