The Musk Oxen
The Musk Oxen (Ovibos moschatus) is probably one of those animals that I have been most fascinated with since i was knee high to a grasshopper... or as my wife would say, "since Moby Dick was a guppy"...
I cant believe I haven't gone to see them in the wild before now. Ive seen them in Yukon in the Wildlife Preserve and watched them in winter and during the end of the summer, early fall when mating season occurs, but never in the wild. And thats a head scratcher to me because I live in Canada and we have some of the largest free ranging herds of Musk Ox in the world.
There are 2 known subspecies of Musk Ox, Greenland Musk ox (Ovibos moschatus wardi) also known as the White-Faced Musk ox which are found in Greenland and the Canadian high Arctic and the Barren Ground Musk ox (Ovibos moschatus moschatus) which are found on the Canadian mainland.
The Musk Ox can be found in various locations throughout northern Canada, Greenland, Alaska, Norway, Sweden and Russia. At one point they were eradicated in Alaska, Norway, Sweden and Russia, but have since been successfully re-introduced to some areas in those countries.
In Canada you can find Musk Ox up in the Barren Lands and Arctic regions of the northern stretches of my country.
So, how long have Musk Ox been around?
They can date Musk Ox back thousands of years... its said to be one of the last remaining animals in existence since the last ice age. Now thats COOL!
Do you know why a Musk Ox is called a Musk Ox?
Well, Musk Oxen have glands that produce a strong, musky odor that gives this Ox its name.
Musk Oxen will reach lengths between 6 and 7.5 feet and have a shoulder height between 4 and 5 feet. Their weight can vary from 400 to 900 pounds. Musk Oxen have an outer coat made of long, brown hairs and an inner coat called qiviut which consists of wool. This is a special adaptation that helps the musk ox survive the freezing temperatures of the tundra. Males and females have horns that meet near the center of the skull.
Males will grow an additional "boss" across the horns that a female doesn't have. Why? Im not sure, but if you've ever seen two 900lb males charging at each other at 35MPH, then exploding in a collision that rivals a car accident, well, Im sure that has something to do with it.
These collisions generally happen in the Rut when males have hormone overload. The rut or mating season for Musk Oxen begins in late summer and early fall. Males will compete for dominance over a harem of females, and a single male will mate with several females. The gestation or pregnancy period will then last approximately 8 months and the female will give birth to one calf in the spring.
And that brings us to the real reason I wanted to introduce you to the Musk Ox... Im going to see them in the wild, FINALLY... and I want you to come with me to witness Musk Ox, Caribou and the predators that circles these herds looking for food...
Yep, its going to be a photo safari in Canada...
Far in Northern Canada there is a beautiful, remote and little-explored wilderness known as ‘Nunavik’ – a region that is rich with wildlife and spectacular scenery where one of the last remaining animals from the last ice age still exists today... Musk-oxen. Musk Ox herds, now in full winter pelage while gathering for the mating season, often range, relax & graze upon the forever-reaching & remote landscape as they have for thousands of years.
Wolves can occasionally be seen circling the herd looking for the young and old Caribou and Musk-Ox to prey upon.
In the peripheral of the Musk Ox area are Polar Bear. Polar Bears often spend the summer fishing, hunting for seals, resting, sleeping and waiting for the winter sea ice to return along the shores of Ungava Bay.
Waterfowl, beginning their long flight south will seemingly fill the sky, and often flock together on the local tundra ponds in order to rest and feed en-route.
Rock & Willow ptarmigan cackle in the bushes while gathering into their winter flocks as they change to their winter plumage.
The crimson and gold autumn colours on the tundra landscape, while beautiful and photogenic unto itself, serve as a background to the spectacular wildlife we will be photographing ... And often on clear nights the aurora borealis will dance & weave intricate patterns across the skies.
The clarity of the atmosphere here offers a rare glimpse of raw wilderness afforded only to very few each year - and the time of season that offers special & unique displays of raw nature that are truly magical...
Join you please join me at a remote wildlife photo camp situated on the ‘barren grounds’ of Nunavik in Northern Canada: One of the most isolated wilderness regions remaining on mainland North America, containing one of few animals that have remained since the lat ice age! The Musk Ox
Check out my Workshop page if you would like to photograph the Musk Ox. I see them in teh Yukon and any day a workshop will be announced focusing on the Musk Ox in the rut.