Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Nome, Alaska - Muskox

Locating the Muskoxen so quickly would not have happened without the help of one of my ranger friends (previously worked in Bearing Land Bridge National Park) who advised where they were normally seen. Never did I think that within three days we would be able to view/photograph them so close. Appropriate approach and patience paid off immensely for some stunning images.

Muskox are native only in the arctic areas of Alaska, Canada and Greenland. They have incredibly long fur coats (hair can be as long as 6 feet). They roam the tundra in search of their primary diet of willow, mosses and lichens (as seen by the calf and bull above). Muskoxen are survivors, who prehistorically have lived with the mastodons and mammoths and have survived hunters and climate changes which have caused other species to become extinct.

Muskox are a herd animal (groups usually 2-3 dozen) and are extremely social animals that maintain a strong family unit structure. This fact was obvious while viewing them. They are known to form a protective circle around their young when threatened, a behavior we did not observe. Above you can see females with young. The females’ horns do not extend completely over the forehead like the males (bottom 2 images).

As you can see with the above, the yearlings lack the head gear of the adults. On occasion you would see a yearling nurse.

The bulls are quite impressive. After resting in the tundra and when getting up to move, the entire herd always followed their lead. Looking close you can see the grooves in the horn with some battle damage.

The most fun viewing was certainly the calves. The cows have one calf every two years. Most were only a week or so old and were so adorable. On our last day two calves closely approached us wailing until the cow herded them up.

In addition to the Muskox, on our travels we were able to see a massive migration of caribou with calves and a moose cow with a calf.

Still hard to believe the things I’ve seen and done the last two seasons and realize how fortunate I am. The next post will be some of the amazing avian species photographed while traveling the few roads around Nome.

Blue Skies.


Tim Rucci said...

Wow, Ken! These are really interesting images of a truly unique animal. Great that you were able to locate the herd and also see some calves. Looks like you had a really interesting week.

Elaine said...

Supurb shots! What a wonderful opportunity you had to observe the herd and get so many outstanding images. They are a remarkable animal and I am so glad that they have thrived since being reintroduced into Alaska.

Ron Niebrugge said...

Those are outstanding Ken - what a productive trip!

HANNIBAL said...

What can I say? Amazing of course, but beyond that Ken! Wow!

francescbb@hotmail.es said...

WWWOOOWWW Excelent shot, Congratulations


~mel said...

Those are AWESOME shots!! I'm jealous ~ how cool to be out there with the muskox!! Thank you for sharing!!!

Dea Vogel said...

Great shots from your Nome trip Ken. Wanted to visit with you again back in the park but our schedule was dictated we get on the road home. Look forward to your future blog posts and hopefully we will meet out in the field again. Have a great summer.
Dea & Brad Vogel

Philip said...

Excellent shots Ken the creatures I have never had the opportunity to photograph amazing creatures :)

Qiper said...

Wow Ken - great pics

Holly said...

That baby musk ox looks so cute !!