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Scientific InformationMuskox (Ovibos moschatus) is an Arctic mammal, noted for its thick coat and for the strong odor emitted by males, from which its name derives. This musky odor is used to attract females during mating season.
Muskox form herds of 3 - 100, but tend to stay in one area. When predators threaten, adults form a ring with the young inside. Occasionally, a bull will leave the ring to attack. Their sight and hearing is good, and when necessary can run rapidly. They feed on sedges, grasses, and willows. In winter, they mainly eat woody plants.
During the late 1800's, muskox disappeared from northern Alaska. Hunting by humans contributed to their decline. The muskox located here on the Seward Peninsula are descendants of 31 animals transplanted to Nunivak Island in the 1935. Originally shipped to Alaska from Greenland, these muskox multiplied steadily and over time their descendants were transplanted to other parts of the state.
Muskox were released on the Seward Peninsula in 1970 and 1981, 71 animals were transplanted to the Seward Peninsula. In April 1992 an aerial survey found 706 muskox on the Seward Peninsula. Currently, muskox numbers support a subsistence harvest animals in local areas of the peninsula. A 2007 aerial count found nearly 2,700 animals.
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Muskox are not coveted by local people as a food source but some individuals are starting to acquire a taste for them. Many find them difficult to skin as their hide is thick and very matted although they are very easy to find and get to. Their meat is very rich and tastes much like beef (they are related to beef). Young bulls and cows are much more tender than the older dominant bulls as is the case with most game animals.
Muskox wool that has been shed is often gathered by some people and used for insulating parkas. One Shishmaref teacher used the hide of a muskox that he harvested to line the inside of his parka. It was very warm.
Locally there are many herds found around Shishmaref on the mainland. During the 2007-2008 season, approximately 150 Federal and State permits were offered to harvest muskox locally. The federal permits allowed for hunting on the Bering Land Bridge National Preserve and State permits within local hunting area 22E limits. This year's quota was much lower but still plenty of opportunities for local and out of town hunters.
Local hunting guide, Clifford Weyiouanna, takes out of state hunters out on snow machines to harvest animals near his family's land on the Arctic River. There is a herd of 50-75 animals there near the mouth of the river.
Alaska Department of Fish and Game. "Musk Ox Annual Survey and Inventory". 2008.
Environment Canada. yourYukon. "Sturdy muskox thriving." Column 247
National Park Service. "Muskox on the Seward Peninsula."