While in Nome we had many highlights. One for me was spending time with Muskox. The incredibly helpful and friendly staff at the Nome Visitor’s Center gave us a tip to try up by the new windfarm on a ridge above town. There we found a herd which soon settled back in to activities of feeding and, for the males, hopeful breeding. The rut had just begun and the males had little action but watching them swagger, waving their skirts of fur was something else. The young look baffled at these emerging adult endeavors (the rut has just begun) and took refuge, peering out behind their mothers like small children behind a curtain.
Muskox are native to Alaska but were extirpated by the mid-1800’s. In an effort to restore the herds, 31 animals were brought to Nunivak Island from Greenland in the winter of 1935/36. As the herd built up, Muskox from here were taken to other locations starting with a move to Nelson Island in the 1960’s. From here they emigrated to the mainland near the Yukon Delta region.
In the 1970’s 36 Muskox were brought to the Feather River to restore a population to the Seward Peninsula where Nome is situated. In 1981, an additional 35 animals were released near Teller. Today over 3000 Muskox occur in several herds and we saw them daily, at least at a distance.
The males have impressive horns with a thick plate over the skull. Young of the year and yearlings are frisky and most entertaining. We watched them perched on a ridge with Norton Sound of the Bering Sea behind, a rich color palette of fall tundra behind — very special!