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The Biology and Culture of Muskox Hunting across Alaska Claudia Ihl NW Campus, Nome.

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Presentation on theme: "The Biology and Culture of Muskox Hunting across Alaska Claudia Ihl NW Campus, Nome."— Presentation transcript:

1 The Biology and Culture of Muskox Hunting across Alaska Claudia Ihl NW Campus, Nome

2 Muskox distribution Native populations: Canada North and East Greenland Introduced and Re-introduced populations: 1: Yukon delta 2: Nunivak Island 3: Seward peninsula 4: Northwest Alaska 5: ANWR 6: Northern Quebec 7: West Greenland 8: Dovre Fjell, Norway 9: Taimyr Peninsula, Russia 10: Wrangell Island, Russia How many are there ? Canada: ca. 110,000 Greenland: ca. 12,000 Alaska: ca. 3,500 Russia: ca. 1,500 Norway: ca. 50 Total: ca. 130,000

3 They park in people’s backyards… In NW Alaska, Muskoxen have not been an instant success …and have to be escorted out of town * * asleep, not dead

4 …they hold up traffic…

5 …they find plastic flowers and scratching posts irresistible…

6 …they set up camp in well fertilized places…

7 …they forage in people’s favorite sourdock or berry patches, and they just won’t leave…

8 …and every year, there seem to be more of them.

9 What to do?

10 Muskoxen have been hunted since…. Seward Peninsula: 1995 Arctic National Wildlife Refuge: 1989 to 2000s (now gone) Cape Krusenstern: 2005 Nunivak Island: 1975 Banks Island: 1971 (hunting ban in Canada after 1917) New traditions are emerging Trails of old traditions (pre- extinction) are missing or growing cold Muskox in Chauvet Cave, France

11 How have hunters received muskoxen as a subsistence game animal? -Muskoxen are easy to find and don’t move around much -They don’t run away when you try to shoot them -They provide a large quantity of meat However People have been slow to adopt them as a subsistence animal

12 Questions for hunters:  which parts of the carcass do you use?  do you use any parts other than meat (e.g., qiviut)?  which parts have the best meat?  how do you cook the meat?  how does the meat compare to caribou, reindeer or moose?  which gender and age do you prefer to hunt?  Do the high fuel costs influence your decision which species to hunt?

13 Questions for hunters:  Have you ever observed interactions between muskoxen and other species?  describe your first ever encounter with muskoxen  how important are muskoxen as a subsistence animal for your village/family?  If you could learn anything you want about muskoxen, what would it be?  how long have muskoxen been in Alaska?  What do they eat?

14 Villages where hunters were interviewed so far: Northwest Alaska (n=18): Nome Elim White Mountain Teller Deering Nunivak Island (n=18) Mekoryuk Arctic Canada (n=1 (so far)) Sachs Harbour

15 Which age and sex do you prefer to hunt and eat? Why?

16 Hunting in Mekoryuk: -subsistence hunt only for females; trophy hunters, guided by locals, take males. -people prefer young adult females - today, muskoxen are shy and stay away from village Muskox Biology on Nunivak Island -no natural predators (wolves or bears) -Population is managed at ca. 700 animals by human hunting only -- Island also has reindeer, but no moose or caribou

17 Hunting in NW Alaska: -subsistence hunt initially only for males; now male OR female in some areas. - Many people have not tasted female meat -people prefer young bulls, but many are uncertain how to distinguish them from females Biology of Muskoxen in NW Alaska: -Management is complicated; multiple predators and land stakeholders - a much larger area with variable habitats - Muskoxen are not shy of people and hang out near villages

18 How do you tell males from females? Do you find this difficult?

19 “It was so rancid, even the dogs wouldn’t eat it” “We were wondering if they all taste like that” Mekoryuk: -people have lots of experience and no difficulties telling ages and sexes NW Alaska: -difficulties telling young males from females -To be sure, hunters target large adult males -Many first-time hunters got a rutting bull:

20 How important are muskoxen as a subsistence animal in your village? Your Family? Mekoryuk: -muskoxen are most important terrestrial subsistence animal; weighed equally to marine animals NW Alaska: -generally, muskoxen rank behind caribou/reindeer or moose in importance for villages - however, individual families prefer muskoxen

21 Are you collecting qiviut and if so, how do you use it?

22 Mekoryuk women knit qiviut supplied from Oomingmak, but also use qiviut from locally hunted animals

23 Oomingmak pays about $ 7 for an ounce of raw qiviut. An adult female carcass can bring in > 500 $ for its qiviut Hunters consider this a valuable income for their families People in Mekoryuk save all the qiviut from each animal they hunt

24 Few people in NW Alaska save qiviut from hunted animals Most people have heard that qiviut can be spun and knit and/or they know someone who knits with qiviut People do not consider qiviut collecting as a supplemental source of income Many hides are thrown away

25 Have you heard any stories about muskoxen from your elders? Do you like having muskoxen around?

26 Mekoryuk: -the first, introduced generation of muskoxen (1930ies) were “mean” and “scared people”. -Some elders didn’t like to eat muskox because of childhood experiences - today, muskoxen are very shy and flighty and stay away from village “She was scared bad by them when she was little. All her life, she never ate any muskox meat, and she refused to touch their hair or their horns.”

27 NW Alaska: -Muskoxen are perceived as “nuisance” in some villages, but people’s individual perceptions differ greatly. e.g.: “They don’t bother no one” “They have done irreparable damage to the land” “They eat all of our berries” -Bulls sometimes invade camps and/or attack chained dogs. Herds park in people’s driveways and on airstrips -Muskoxen show little fear of people but people are afraid of muskoxen -Muskoxen cannot be “shooed away” like other animals. The more you shoo them, the more they stay.

28 Don’t run! Stand your ground If you have short legs, heavy bodies and are over-dressed… People mistake muskox defensive strategy for aggression

29  Bring Mekoryuk hunters and NW Alaska hunters together for workshops and an exchange of ideas  Promote use of quiviut among NW Alaska hunters and families  Investigate foraging of “nuisance” muskoxen near villages – are they really eating all the berries? Future work:

30 Questions ? Funded by Alaska Epscor: “Mini-Grant for engagement of Alaska Natives in Research” Thanks to all the hunters Thank you!

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33 Who eats muskoxen ? During the Ice Age: Humans Wolves Bears Lions ? Saber-tooth cats ? Dire wolves ? Short-faced bears ? Today: Humans Wolves Bears (Grizzlies and very rarely polar bears)

34 Don’t run! Stand your ground If you have short legs, heavy bodies and are over-dressed…

35 In all seasons… …muskoxen move a lot less than carbou or reindeer

36 They are usually easy to find. …especially during winter


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