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Inupiaqs call it "omingmak" or "the bearded one." Shaggy and social, with an almost surreal
quality, the muskox, more than any other animal, conjures up images of the cold, remote arctic.
Seeing one takes you back . . . to the time of the mammoth, the short-faced bear, and the
Muskoxen thrive on the Arctic Refuge coastal plain. This was not always so. They
disappeared from Alaska's north slope more than 100 years ago. They were brought back to the
Refuge in 1969. Today about 350 muskoxen live on the Refuge, and they have expanded to areas
both west and east.
As the only large mammals that live year-round on the Refuge coastal plain, muskoxen are
uniquely adapted to a frigid environment. They have to be. Winter lasts nine months of the year,
temperatures routinely drop to minus 30 or colder, and winds blow almost constantly. Yet
muskoxen stay warm. How? Their long, skirt-like guard hairs and thick "qiviut" wool provide
insulation, and their square, short-legged bodies retain heat. The animals also don't move around
much in winter to conserve energy.
In summer, muskoxen feed along rivers on a wide variety of plants. In winter they move to
areas with low snow cover to feed on sedges and shrubs.
Adult females, young animals, and some males live in social groups year-round. Other
males are solitary in summer and live together in winter. When threatened, muskoxen typically
run together to form a tight circle or line. This unusual defensive technique is quite effective
The entire Refuge coastal plain has muskoxen. In summer, they are concentrated along
major rivers including the Canning, Tamayariak, Sadlerochit, Jago, Aichilik, and Kongakut.
Muskoxen are an important part of the Refuge ecosystem, adding to the area's diversity and
providing a year-round food source for predators and other animals.
The once endangered muskox brings a special majesty and aura to the Refuge, one not
offered by any other animal. The Arctic Refuge protects habitats for this ice-age relic. It's one of
the many reasons this special Refuge was created.
Note: This is the MapCruzin.com archive of the FWS Arctic National Wildlife Refuge website. In December, 2001 FWS took this website offline, making it unavailable to the public. It includes 90 plus pages of information and many maps. As of 2006 the important information contained in this, the original "unsanitized" version of the FWS website, has yet to return to the internet, so we will continue to maintain it here as a permanent archive to help inform activists and concerned citizens. If you find any broken links, please report them to me at [email protected] and I will attempt to make the repairs. January, 2008 update - A small part of the original information that was present in 2001 has made it back into the current ANWR website. There is also an archive that contains a small amount of the original information, but it is not readily available from the main website.
U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. 2001. Potential impacts of proposed oil and gas
development on the Arctic Refuge’s
coastal plain: Historical overview and
issues of concern. Web page of the Arctic National
17 January 2001. http://arctic.fws.gov/issues1.html
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