Musk Oxen Spotted Near Bethel

by Daysha Eaton on January 14, 2015

150112 Musk Oxen 5

– Photo Courtesy of Patrick Jones

A herd of musk oxen was recently spotted between Bethel and the Tundra Villages of Kasigluk, Nunapitchak and Atmauthluk. Sources say the group of approximately eight musk oxen was seen over the weekend.

Bethel ADF&G Wildlife Biologist Patrick Jones says people traveling on trails between Bethel and the villages should be prepared to go around the animals.

“If you approach a musk ox they have a stubbornness in them so they’re just gonna bunch up and hold tight and they’re not going to give up the spot that they’re on. You gotta be flexible and be able to go around them. But normally you can approach em pretty close. A lot of times you can get 100, 50 yards away form them without stressing them out too much and take pictures without stressing them out too much. On the other hand they really, really do not like dogs,” said Jones.

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Jones says dogs should be leashed if musk oxen are encountered.

The Musk Oxen in Alaska today are the descendants of animals brought over from Greenland after the state’s population went extinct around the turn of the century. The musk oxen in the Bethel area have slowly been migrating over the ice from Nelson Island. Alaska Department of Fish and Game Biologists estimate there are now approximately 200 musk oxen in the Yukon Kuskokwim Delta. They do not plan a hunt for the animals until the population reaches 2,000.

Taking a muskox when the season is not open is a misdemeanor offense, and can carry a fine of $10,000, a year in jail, and restitution for the muskox $3,000.  Harassing game is also a misdemeanor offense with the same fine and jail maximum sentences, but restitution would not apply.

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