Friday, 9 August 2013

Muskox and Wolves

Zoe Panchen

Just half a dozen years ago, the Lake Hazen area was apparently teaming with muskox and there were so many Arctic Hares that you would trip over them! When I arrived this year there was not a single animal in sight nor did I see any for a whole week. Parks staff suggested that this may be the low in the animal abundance cycle and that there seemed to be more wolves these days. So every animal I did see was greeted with much excitement.
Mountains and tundra near Camp Hazen
but not an animal to be seen!
I was looking for plants around the Snow Goose River delta one day and looked up to see out of the corner of my eye an Alice in Wonderland vision. It was in fact an Arctic Hare up on its hind legs in its typical pose. It was just missing a pocket watch! Since then I saw one or two hares every few days but certainly not in the numbers of just a few years ago.

The Arctic Hare just needs a pocket watch
for a part in Alice in Wonderland
A few days later a park staff member spotted a small group of Muskox in the distance, they were but tiny black dots even viewed through the telescope. For a few weeks we saw small herds of muskox passing just north of camp and often hanging out for a day on a flat dry spot by Skeleton Creek just above camp and then they were all gone again. One Muskox even ate the flowers of a Pallas’ Wallflower (Erysimum pallasii) I had been painstakingly photographing every three days as a visual record of phenological progression! It was exciting to see the muskox each time they wondered by.

Muskox hanging out on a plateau near camp
with Varsity Mountain in the back ground
Male Muskox shedding his winter coat
One evening we were eating supper in the cook tent when a wolf howled and announced its presence in camp. Rushing outside we were treated to a powerful wolf striding by camp just a 100m away, what an awesome sight!

Artic Wolf striding past camp
I also saw a few little hamster like Lemmings and an Arctic Fox high up on McGill Mountain. The picture would  have been complete if I had seen some Peary Caribou but none were seen anywhere in the park this summer, so I contented myself with having seen their bleached white antlers here and there.


1 comment:

  1. Great to see all those arctic amimals - we did see muskox in Norway but there was a TV camera crew on our cruise boat so I suspect they had been shepherded close to shore to meet needs of camera crew!!
    Did Sofia ever get closer to a lemming than its droppings!?