The Unknown Story of the Mighty Muskoxen
Muskox, just say it out loud…muskox. In addition to being one of the great words (subjectively) to speak in the English language, it’s also a large arctic mammal known for its thick coat and strong smell. Seeing herds roam the Arctic tundra, they look like a long-extinct prehistoric mammal from the Ice Age akin to a wooly mammoth and saber tooth tiger. The muskox made it through prehistoric time, though they almost went the way of its Ice Age companions and was in decline and completely eliminated from Alaska due to overhunting.
So begins one of the great and lesser known conservation and restoration stories of the last hundred years. After its eradication from Alaska, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service scooped up 36 young calves and yearling muskoxen from their range in Greenland. From there they began a perilous journey via boat (across the Atlantic) by train (New York to Seattle) and boat again to Fairbanks. After a few years of recovery and acclimation, these animals became the source of all wild muskoxen in Alaska today. They were first introduced to Nunivak Island and, after having thrived there, they have since expanded to over 4,000 throughout Alaska, including the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge (NWR).
This successful restoration story is in jeopardy of coming to a bad ending with the current effort to open the Arctic NWR to drilling. The muskoxen in the refuge that are also targets for oil and gas drilling. Disturbing muskoxen when they are most vulnerable, during the winter and calving season, could harm the populations with the refuge and could threaten their survival.
Republican leaders in the Senate, working on behalf of the special interests in the oil and gas industry, have amended the tax bill to open the Arctic to drilling. The tax bill is no place to for this debate to happen and it’s an underhanded attempt to sneak this past the American public. The industry has been trying to gain access to the refuge for years and is on the cusp of finally achieving its unpopular goal. The public has spoken time and again against opening up this pristine habitat that’s important to so many wildlife species, including migratory birds, polar bears, caribou and muskoxen. Some Republican members in the House have urged their colleagues in the Senate to abandon plans to open the Arctic to drilling. Protecting the Arctic has been a bi-partisan issue since President Eisenhower first established the refuge in 1960.
It’s time to take action and stand up again for our wildlife and public lands. We’ve beaten back drilling in the Arctic with bi-partisan support in the past and with your voice and support we can do it again.
Source: Public Lands