Muskox – I’m a Survivor!

Muskox – I’m a Survivor!

Muskox – I’m a Survivor!

4 minute read – 

The muskox is an adaptable animal. In the face of climate change a generalist diet with a slow metabolism helped this species survive through the last ice age and to today while other megafauna, like woolly mammoths, went extinct.

During Beringia there were two types of muskox present on the extensive grassland biome – Ovibos moschatus, the tundra muskox that roams today, and Bootherium bombifrons, the helmeted muskox. 

The helmeted muskox did not survive the Pleistocene even though it was endemic to North America and had a wider range than its relative, the tundra muskox. If you could imagine this Beringian muskox was taller and more slender than those of the living tundra muskox and its wider range spanned an area from Texas all the way to Alaska. Like many of the horn and antler bearing animals of this era it was all about BIG, oversized, dramatic displays for sexual selection. The helmeted muskox had longer deeper skulls that supported higher and more flaring horns than the tundra muskox. But, size didn’t get selected as most important for survival in this dramatically changing and climatically unstable landscape. It seems not only was smaller horns preferred through evolution but overall body size too – the less compact nature of this muskox might have played a role in its extinction along with many other large herbivorous mammals of its’ time.  

The tundra muskox crossed the Bering land bridge from Eurasia into North America about 100,000 years ago. A more focused range and smaller size as well as thicker coat than that of the Bootherium, the Ovibos remains a resident of the Arctic landscape to this day. What’s pretty incredible is that these muskox have changed, genetically, very little since their days on the Mammoth Steppe. The muskox of today’s Arctic Archipelago are however much less genetically diverse than those that lived during the last Ice Age which suggests they were not completely unscathed during this time of climatic instability. Significant population and geographical range shrinkage restricted the tundra muskox to Greenland and much of the western Northern American Arctic populations are reintroductions from those limited genetics. The two types of muskox of the late Pleistocene did not mix genetically and the reduction of both species, including the extinction of the helmeted muskox, seem to exclude humans as a driving force behind these population dynamics into the Holocene.

Ovibos moschatus, the tundra muskox, was able to ride the waves of climate change over tens of thousands of years. Their adaptability to variability, including climate and thus vegetation quantity and quality, fostered this large Ice Age mammal to survive a formidable narrow niche of the Arctic biome to present day. What might the future hold for the muskox?

Photo credit L. Caskenette

Resources:

Thanks to Dr. Grant Zazula for taking the time share incredible insights into the past, into Beringia with the YWP crew! 

Ancient DNA analyses exclude humans as the driving force behind late Pleistocene musk ox (Ovibos moschatus) population dynamics. Paula F. Camposa, Eske Willersleva, Andrei Sherb, Ludovic Orlandoc, Erik Axelssona, Alexei Tikhonovd, Kim Aaris-Sørensena, Alex D. Greenwoode, Ralf-Dietrich Kahlkef, Pavel Kosintsevg, Tatiana Krakhmalnayah, Tatyana Kuznetsovai, Philippe Lemeyj, Ross MacPheek, Christopher A. Norrisl, Kieran Shepherdm, Marc A. Suchardn, Grant D. Zazulao, Beth Shapirop, and M. Thomas P. Gilberta.

Musk ox (Ovibos moschatus) of the mammoth steppe: tracing palaeodietary and palaeoenvironmental changes over the last 50,000 years using carbon and nitrogen isotopic analysis Maanasa Raghavan,, Gonçalo Espregueira Themudo, Colin I. Smith, Grant Zazula, Paula F. Campos

Tundra Muskox

Helemeted Muskox

Lindsay Caskenette

Lindsay Caskenette

Manager of Visitor Services

Lindsay joined the Wildlife Preserve team March 2014. Originally from Ontario, she came to the Yukon in search of new adventures and new career challenges. Lindsay holds a degree in Environmental Studies with honours from Wilfrid Laurier University and brings with her a strong passion to share what nature, animals and the environment can teach us.

867-456-7400
lindsay@yukonwildlife.ca

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Golden Eagle Gets Second Chance

Golden Eagle Gets Second Chance

Golden Eagle Gets Second Chance

Photo credit:  L. Caskenette

A golden eagle was admitted Wednesday evening, November 24th 2021, to the Wildlife Rehabilitation Centre. This individual, who is quite a bit bigger than the last golden eagle in our care, was found by a member of the public in the middle of the road, in between Haines Junction and Mendenhall area.

Upon initial assessment of the animal there appeared to be no broken bones but was severely hypothermic. Given it was found in the middle of the HWY, Dr. Maria Hallock guesses it was perhaps struck by a vehicle, concussed and resting in place but ultimately becoming weaker due to extended immobility in the extreme cold. While its not certain how long the animal was there for it was enough for the animal to be near frozen state upon its discovery. 

On Thursday morning the eagle was given additional fluids, on top of the fluids it received upon its arrival the evening prior. Some chicken was fed to the eagle in the later part of the Thursday along with a quail. 

On Friday the eagle appeared more responsive and alert and eager to eat by itself. This care and close observation occurred inside the Rehabilitation building where Dr. Maria Hallock waited for the animal to defecate – poop, for assessing continued signs of improvement and health in the GI tract – all good there by the way! 

The eagle will spend the next several days in the Centre being closed monitored. While during the day it will spend time in an outside care room, in the evenings it will come inside. 

If all continues well in its progress and recovery a release back to the wild could possibly happen sometime next week. 

Had this person and those that opted to stop and assist not taken the steps they did, including assessing the animals from a safe distance and calling Conservation Officers and subsequently the Preserve, this eagle would very likely have succumbed to the elements or get fatally struck by a vehicle.

Shaun, pictured here with the eagle, stopped on the hwy when he noticed the original rescuer swerv on the road. He and his crew, Dustin and Clayton helped secure the eagle using their jackets. While we recommend leaving it to the professionals to rescue capture animals, this crew of folks took a lot of precautions when they assessed the situation and decided to intervene and help the animal. Photo courtesy of Shaun Randall.

We are so grateful to live among a community that values wildlife, that cares about our natural world – it’s our mission, to connect people to the natural world and everyday we’re inspired by the landscape, animals and people that make this incredible territory, the Yukon, a place that is wild at heart <3

Lindsay Caskenette

Lindsay Caskenette

Manager of Visitor Services

Lindsay joined the Wildlife Preserve team March 2014. Originally from Ontario, she came to the Yukon in search of new adventures and new career challenges. Lindsay holds a degree in Environmental Studies with honours from Wilfrid Laurier University and brings with her a strong passion to share what nature, animals and the environment can teach us.

867-456-7400
lindsay@yukonwildlife.ca

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Busy Times & Hungry Critters in Care

Busy Times & Hungry Critters in Care

Busy Times & Hungry Critters in Care

This story was originally published July 10 2021 in the e-blast newsletter to Yukon Wildlife Preserve’s membership.

Are you a member but don’t receive these email Newsletters?  Contact us at info@yukonwildlife.ca to update your email preferences.

Mew Gull x2

Location found – Downtown.

Admitted on June 15th after the nest was lost. Conservation Officers brought the animals to the Preserve.

This pair are in an outdoor aviary where they are growing fast and eat mice 3 times a day.

• • •

Juvenile Mew Gull with Wing Injury

Also found downtown but admitted more recently on July 7th. This individual has fractures to its right wing and a large hematoma but depsite its injuries is in good body and remains active and alert. 

The animal is on low dose medication for pain and inflammation and the wing is immobilized. It remains under observation before it will move in with the other gulls outside. 

• • •

Boreal Owl

Admitted June 28th, this tiniest of Yukon owls was rescued from an attack by a domestic dog. While the animal came in with mild ataxia (lack of coordination) it’s doing relatively well. It’s missing primary and secondary feathers on both wings but with time and regular mice feedings twice a day the owl should be a good candidate for release when ready.

• • •

Juvenile Northern Flicker

Location found – Takhini Hot Springs Rd area. 

Admitted on June 27th after the young animal fell out of its nest and was at risk of predation. 

Plan for recovery and release with time and lots of mealworm feedings throughout the day and small mice.

• • •

Coyote Pups

2 male coyote pups, about 6 – 8 weeks old, were admitted to the Rehabilitation Centre on July 5th after they were found, suspected to be orphaned, in the Marsh Lake area by members of the public. 

The pups eat 3 times a day and their appetites are growing. Along with a puppy formula, every feeding they consume 4 mice and 2 whole quail each. 

• • •

Each of these animals face challenging times ahead but the Wildlife Preserve Animal Care Team, including Veterinarian, Dr. Maria Hallock, are working 7 days a week, near 20 hours a day to ensure each of these animals are given the best possible chance for recovery and release back into the wild. 

We could use your support to aid in these animal’s recovery – please consider donating. Help us keep Yukon wild at heart ♥

• • •

Lindsay Caskenette

Lindsay Caskenette

Manager of Visitor Services

Lindsay joined the Wildlife Preserve team March 2014. Originally from Ontario, she came to the Yukon in search of new adventures and new career challenges. Lindsay holds a degree in Environmental Studies with honours from Wilfrid Laurier University and brings with her a strong passion to share what nature, animals and the environment can teach us.

867-456-7400
lindsay@yukonwildlife.ca

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