ANCHORAGE, Alaska (AP) -- Crime is so rare in the tiny Alaska Native community of Deering that police say the theft of two fossilized mastodon tusks shouldn't be a behemoth case.

But the 131 residents in this tight-knit community have been tight-lipped about the robbery, stymying investigators.

"It's only a limited number of people who could do it, and even a smaller number who would do it within the community," said Sgt. Karl Erickson of the Alaska State Troopers in Kotzebue.

Fossil hunting is a popular pastime in Deering, a village of mostly Inupiat Eskimos on the Seward Peninsula at the mouth of the Inmachuk River.

Locals hunt for the bones and tusks of mastodon, giant elephant-like beasts that roamed the earth millions of years ago.

"You can find stuff every year," said resident Jim Moto. "But if it doesn't flood, you don't find anything at all."

http://edition.cnn.com/2004/US/West/....ap/index.html