For the first time since the late 1800s, a muskox has been spotted by hunters in the western Canadian province of Manitoba.
An estimated 75,000 of these shaggy animals roam further north, but they were extirpated from Manitoba by an aggressive hunt for their fur and meat.
Named for their strong smell during the mating season, muskoxen usually travel in small groups. Their habits were different from those of the bison which congregated in massive herds. Both groups of animals were slaughtered to near extinction on the grasslands, called prairies, which span three provinces in western Canada.
Lonely on the prairie
It’s not known whether the lone muskox in Manitoba will stay or if others will join him. But wildlife officials say they and hunters will keep an eye out for them.
“This is a lone male, or as some people have joked, a lonely male,” said Manitoba Conservation biologist Bill Watkins. “Hopefully in time we’ll see some additional animals cross the border and eventually have a small breeding population.”
Related stories from around the North:
Canada: Inuit community worried about muskox deaths in Canadian Arctic, Eye on the Arctic
Greenland: Field notes from Greenland – The muskox economy, Blog by Mia Bennett
United States: Muskoxen on the move in Northwest Alaska, Alaska Dispatch