Muskox - Management

Management Reintroduction Efforts:

Muskoxen were overhunted and eliminated from Alaska by the mid 1800’s. There has been several release efforts of muskoxen on Nunivak Island, Alaska which include the dates of 1935 and 1936. These efforts were organized to increase diversity and increase hunting opportunity. Two herds were also introduced on the mainland of Alaska. In 1969, 51 muskoxen were released on the small Alaskan Island of Barter Island. In 1970 13 individuals where released in the Kavic river area. Roughly seven years later 35 individuals were released in the Alaskan Feather river area. The population size of musk ox ranges into the thousands, roughly 80,000 individuals as of 2005. The Alaskan population of musk ox is around 4,000 individuals as of 2005. Greenland has a population of 10,000 individuals and climbing. A major threat to this stable population is a warm winter which brings in icy conditions and deeper snow.

Hunting Management:

There is a strong pressure to harvest these animals due to their fur, meat, and big game hunting potential. Those pressures increase the threat of extirpation. In the late 1800’s those unregulated hunting pressures forced the species farther north. During the 1917’s there was the Northwest Territories and Nunavut Wildlife Act, which aided the recovery time of the muskoxen. Aboriginal hunting was still allowed but it is regulated under strict quotas in management areas. By the 1980’s the right to hunt these animals was open to the public and not just restricted to the aboriginal population. Commercial harvesting of this species has been reestablished, but with strict quotas per season. These rules allowed the population to remain stable without over exploitation.

Economic Uses:

Musk ox are raised for a variety of products. They are raised for meat, wool, horn, and pelts. Attempts to domesticate musk ox began in 1899, but some journals report earlier efforts. The meat is coined a delicacy because the tender meat is marbled and leaner than pork or beef. The qiviut is an expensive fiber that, until commercial farming, was very rare due to strict hunting quotas. This fine underwool does not shrink in hot water and is smoother than sheep’s wool. The wool is then spun into yarn and made into a variety of products.