Perhaps the most sought-after mammal around Nome, AK is the Muskoxen. Nome may be the only place in the USA where you can fly in, rent a car, and go see a wild Muskox. It is even possible to see them in town and around the airport.
Muskoxen are one of the few large land mammals in North America that could wear tee-shirts stating, “I survived the Ice-age: Mastodons and Woolly Mammoths are wimps”.
Of course, one of their survival traits may have led to their demise. By the 1920’s Muskox were extirpated from the state of Alaska. One reason was likely due to humans killing them for their wool; one of the warmest wools for its weight. This wool that allows a Muskox to withstand cold dark winters on the Arctic Tundra was sought after to make coats, hats, scarves, and other clothing items.
Muskox also provided a food source for both man and sled dogs, further compromising their population.
In 1930, Alaska wildlife officials imported 34 Muskoxen from East Greenland and penned them at Fairbanks. After sustaining a few losses, they were relocated to a large island in the Bering Sea, free from bears. The herd expanded, allowing for animals to be translocated to the mainland. By year 2000, it was estimated that 4,000 oxen existed in Alaska.
The Muskox may not rank high on the list of beautiful or majestic mammals, but their multiple adaptations to withstand harsh winters must be admired. Fortunately, concerned wildlife managers noted their dwindling populations, took action, and were successful in their recovery.