Musk Oxen Form Defensive Circles

by Dave Hanks

The Musk Ox is an Arctic mammal of the Bovidae (cattle-like) family. It gets its name from a strong, “musky” odor given off when excited. Both sexes have horns and they both grow two fur coats. Their long, shaggy outer coat of straight hair, which hangs down, covers a thick, soft undercoat. These coats keep them snuggly warm during the cold Arctic winters. This fur makes excellent clothing and can be woven into shawls, sweaters, gloves, and other clothing items.

Musk Oxen are large herbivores that feed on grasses, lichens, and willows. Their hooves spread out, spreading the oxen’s weight to enable it to walk more efficiently on the winter landscape. Each toe is also sharp and is used to uncover grasses that are buried under the snow.

This bovine lives in groups as large as 24 (less in summer). The herd is not territorial and is always on the move. Dominant individuals will displace subordinates from patches of grass in winter. The bulls will roar, paw the ground, and kick a lesser herd member with a foreleg when annoyed. The cows have one calf every two years. It will huddle under its mother’s long coat for warmth during cold periods. Both the cows and calves are fiercely protected when threatened. The group may run at first, but then stop and form a defensive circle: bulls facing outward and cows and calves in the center. The bulls may even charge and try to gore an enemy.

This circle works well against their main enemy the wolf, but is a disastrous defense against humans – who can come up and slaughter the whole group. In order to get at the calves – needed for zoos, all the adults must be shot. Because of this, the Canadian government has banned Musk Ox hunting.

Musk Oxen live in Canada, Alaska, Greenland, Norway, and Russia. They were reintroduced into the Arctic Wildlife Refuge. They were almost extinct, but now there are about 350 and they are now expanding southward.

Ovibos moschatus at the University of Alaska – Fairbanks

Ovibos moschatus at the University of Alaska – Fairbanks

The Northern Plague

by Dave Hanks

	In the land of the voracious mosquito,
	In the land of bog and lake; 
	They attack you, they bite you, and they suck you –
	Miserable your life they can make!

	In the land of the voracious mosquito,
	Be prepared for goodness sake –
	With spray, with netting, with long sleeves –
	To reduce the blood they take.

	In the land of the voracious mosquito,
	Go arrayed in peculiar gear,
	Weird hats, weird boots, weird people –
	Garbed out from foot to ear.

	In the land of the voracious mosquito,
	This is a point I want to make clear –
	Go lacquered, go covered, and go dauntless –
	If ready, go forth without fear.

We have been in the far north on many occasions. If you think
mosquitoes are bad in Southern Idaho, take a trip north to country
that has an abundance of water, and an abundance of summer daylight.
Those are conditions that mosquitoes thrive in. Here in Cassia County,
the annoying presence of this animal cannot even come close to
rivaling its counterpart in the far north.

We know that a mosquito bite can carry disease. But in the north
they can be so numerous and belligerent, that they can kill by
sucking so much blood that an animal as large as a caribou can die.

I have seen models of mosquitoes on sale as the Alaska State Bird –
obviously a joke, but no joke in reality!

Being prepared for the Mosquitos and their habitat in Alaska