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The Muskox Is Bouncing Back From Near Extinction After Surviving Two Ice Ages

The Muskox Is Bouncing Back From Near Extinction After Surviving Two Ice Ages

The muskox was almost extinct in the late 1800s, but immediate efforts to repopulate them in Alaska, Russia, and Scandinavia have ensured that they can try to survive the current warm period.

Muskoxen are fantastic creatures from our prehistoric era. Their kind has walked alongside wooly mammoths and sabertooth tigers and have managed to outlive both these ancient beasts. There have been multiple efforts to restore and repopulate Muskoxen and hope that they can survive our ongoing warm spell. They have been around for at least 2.5 million years now, migrating across the Bering Strait land bridge into North America 2 million years ago. 



 

 

Aside from the reindeer of the north, these are the only megafauna from the arctic region that survived all the way back to the ice ages. Their companions, the wooly mammoths, sabertooth tigers, and mastodons who also roamed the world at the time were not so lucky. Around 10,000 years ago, they started to deplete with the earth beginning to warm up as the human population continued to boom. The muskox too was almost extinct in the late 1800s, but immediate efforts to repopulate them in Alaska, Russia, and Scandinavia have ensured that they can try to survive the current warm period we have been experiencing for nearly 12,000 years now. 



 

 

Currently, there are estimated to be about 170,000 muskoxen left in the world, which is a rise from 135,000 back in 2008. Their populations in some parts of the world are certainly on the rise and that's a great sign. 30 muskoxen were introduced to Alaska in the 1930s and that number has risen to over 5000 today. They are still continuing to decline in Canada and Greenland, where their largest populations once existed. For example, in Banks Island, Canada, their population has dropped from 70,000 in the 1990s to just under 15,000 in 2014. 



 

 

The warm weather that has been prolonging for a while now has brought rain, where there used to be only snow. This resulted in creating layers of ice over vegetation the muskox used to rely on to get them through each winter. When the climate continued to become more unpredictable, conservation and re-population efforts became even more of a concern. One such place that focuses on this is the Alaska Wildlife Conservation Center. These large bovines eat a wide variety of plants, including grasses, sedges, forbs, and woody plants. One issue is that they are poorly adapted for digging through heavy snow for food, so winter habitat is generally restricted to areas with shallow snow accumulations or areas blown free of snow.



 

 

They aren't known to be very aggressive, but are still wild animals, and will react to potential threats with violence in an act of self-defense. Within their natural ecosystem, arctic wolves are the main predator and may account for up to 50% of all mortality. Grizzly bears and polar bears are occasional predators, mainly of calves and infirm adults. When under attack, they try to run to higher ground and then form a circle with their rumps together. Then they face their horns outwards as the calves stay close to their mothers' sides. Muskoxen are usually slow breeders, and will only produce one calf every two to three years.



 

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