Muskox and calf in brown dry Tundra over a hill

Muskox, the survivors of the Ice Age! by Gisel Adame

Hello everyone,

Today I wanted to go over what I have learned from living here over a month. A lot of this is about a furry herbivore known as the Muskox. They are survivors of the Ice Age and were reintroduced to Alaska in the 1930’s from Greenland. The first time I have ever heard of, or seen a Muskox, is when I arrived to Alaska. So I want to provide you with some facts, and some misrepresentations you might think about these cute creatures.

For starters, Muskox are not actually related to Ox or Buffalo. Though they quite look similar with their stature and shaggy hair. They are closely related to the sheep and wild mountain goat! Quite surprising I know. During one of our birding trips, I was provided the opportunity to snap the photo you see above. There are lots of calves this year, and it is so exciting to see many of them roam around Nome.

Not knowing much about them, I assumed they were docile like cattle. Quite the opposite…..they are aggressive. Although, I did learn from our Wildlife Biologist and a few other specialized staff, that Muskox do not have a predatory bone in their body. Which just means, they do not go out of their way to harm but to protect and defend. Like any wild animal, they have been known to attack and unfortunately are dangerous to be around.

During this time of year, they shed their fur on the willows, and Alaska Natives collect the wool to craft many items such as scarves, socks, headbands, etc.

qiviut from Muskox held in hand

This is called qiviut, and it is considered a valuable fiber due to limited availability and obtainment. It is super soft, durable, and really warm to use. If you’re lucky, you will get to pull some off the willows in the tundra. Make sure you stay at least 150ft away from these creatures, while they are cute, they are not like the happy cows of California.

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