- Associated Press - Monday, June 16, 2014

NOME, Alaska (AP) - More and more musk oxen are venturing into the Nome area, leading to run-ins with people and their pets.

Alaska Department of Fish and Game biologist Tony Gorn said there definitely are more of the massive shaggy animals around town lately. But that doesn’t necessarily mean there are more of the animals overall, KNOM reported (https://is.gd/90Tv8b).

The Seward Peninsula’s musk oxen population actually has been declining 13 percent a year, according to Gorn.

“What’s really changed in the last several years is the distribution of the local musk ox groups,” he said.

One resident, Mercie McGuffie, believes more of the animals are being pushed closer to Nome by an increasing number of brown bears in the area.

McGuffie grew up in Nome and used to have to go out into the country for a chance at seen a musk ox. That’s no longer the case.

“Everywhere I’m running into musk ox,” McGuffie said. “In the bushes, on the road.”

Gorn calls the bear hypothesis compelling, pointing to a colleague’s survey on musk oxen calving.

“At the same time calves were disappearing, that was the same period that all the musk ox moved into Nome,” he said. “So, if you connect those dots it certainly does seem like the local movements towards Nome are really in response to predation.”

Among residents, Vicky Erickson had her first encounter with musk oxen recently at her property. She saw her husband waving a shovel around at two animals that were ramming the couple’s dog pen. Erickson hasn’t fired a gun in years, so she chased away the musk oxen with her pickup truck.

Neither Erickson nor her husband was injured, but she was shaken by the experience. Now she feels she has to be on guard all the time in case her dog or children get in a tangle with one of the animals.


Information from: KNOM-AM, https://www.knom.org

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