Biologist in Nome warns against musk oxen viewing

NOME — A state biologist in Nome is cautioning people on the Seward Peninsula against viewing musk oxen up close, saying that endangers young calves.

An early spring is moving peninsula musk oxen closer to where people live, KNOM reported.

Getting too close to the animals can scare herds, harming or even killing young calves, Alaska Fish and Game biologist Tony Gorn said.

Musk oxen population declines are near 13 percent yearly, with calf survival rates down, according to Gorn. He said those declines are further pressured by wildlife watchers who get too close to the animals.

“When they’re watching them and they’re causing the groups to run off, it’s really a big deal with musk ox groups, because new calves can’t keep up when adults run off,” he said. “When adults run off, often times calves get stepped on and killed.”

He also cautioned people against caring for calves that appear to be abandoned, when in reality their mothers are actually not that far away. That could be a death sentence because it could be difficult for calves to rejoin a herd, he said.

The young animals are much more likely to survive if left alone.

“The best thing to do is just to leave it there,” Gorn said. “Although you don’t see musk ox in the immediate area, they are not that far away ... It’ll start to call, mom’s going to start to look for it, and the best bet is they’re going to get back together on their own.”

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