Friday, 22 June 2012

Rare sighting of muskox reported in northern Alberta - via Chad Arment

When a large, brown animal was spotted near North Leland Lake in northern Alberta on Sunday, people assumed it was a moose. Maybe a bison.

But as the beast stepped out into the open, it became clear that it was actually a muskox.

“They were just overwhelmed to see that and very impressed,” said Dan Wettlaufer, owner of the Andrew Lake Lodge.

Muskox are arctic mammals with thick coats and long, curved horns. Wettlaufer said he normally has to travel 500 kilometres north of Leland Lake, which is near the Alberta/Northwest Territories border, to see one.

“For the casual person that hasn’t seen one, you kind of have to imagine the combination of a bison and a woolly mammoth. They have a real unique prehistoric character,” said Wettlaufer.

He thinks this might be the first sighting in Alberta.

The muskox made a couple of appearances on Sunday, even attracting the attention of the lodge’s resident dogs.

“He decided he wasn’t going to be bossed around by a couple of dogs and he charged on them. They came scurrying out of the bush,” said Wettlaufer.

“It was quite a sight.”

Don Thomas, a former research scientist with the Canadian Wildlife Service, said the incident is definitely rare.

“It would be very unusual for one to come that far into the forested area because they tend to stay mostly on the tundra,” he said.

The animals began expanding their territory 20 to 30 years ago, with some moving further north and others heading into parts of Saskatchewan, he said. The reasons are unknown but could relate to poaching or global warming.

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