Monday, 27 July 2015

Arctic Safari

It is a little cooler than in the Serengeti but we had quite the safari experience here today. We almost missed the herd of muskox that was lying down at the far end of the air strip; they kind of blended in with the fuel drums! We had supper with the kitchen door open and watched them through binoculars. We could see some young amongst them. The adults are starting to molt and look even more shaggy than normal. The muskox has two types of hair; thick wiry outer hairs to protect against the wind and thin downy inner extremely warm wool. After a while the herd started to move off. We grabbed our cameras and approached cautiously from behind a rise so as to not spook them and sat down on a hill overlooking them. There were 14 muskox including three young born this March and a couple of yearlings. The largest 2 muskox were the rear vanguard watching us wearily from across the valley, one bellowed warning us to keep our distance. The wind was catching their long shaggy coat as the herd moved steadily across the tundra. It was like watching a herd of wildebeest crossing the Serengeti, what a special moment!


  1. Zoe,

    Looks like the muskox were far off. How close did you get to them? What are they eating? What species are most closely related to muskox? Were the muskox afraid of people because of past hunting?


  2. The muskox is related to the goat. They eat willow and sedge mostly but they have also eaten some of the flowers I was monitoring such as the Pallas' wallflower!
    With patience it is possible to get quite close to the muskox, say within a couple 100yards, although it is good to keep a respectable distance as being charged by a muskox in not advisable!
    Wolves are the main predators of muskox. The muskox will form a defensive semi-circle or line to protect the young when approached. The ancestors of the Inuit hunted muskox in the Lake Hazen area, there are a number of archaeological sites around Lake Hazen, I even found an unknown meat cash last year. In more recent times the Greely and Peary expeditions hunted and killed a vast number of the muskox and caribou in the area.