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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Short Eared Owl Release

Short Eared Owl Release

Short Eared Owl Release

Video

Join Animal Care Assistant, Erica as she shares the successful release story of a longer-term patient, a short-eared owl! 

The owl arrived in Fall 2021 and was released in Spring 2022.

Spring 2022 this owl was returned to the wild after being struck by a vehicle in August 2021 and suffering two broken legs.

It was a happy moment for Erica, as she spent the entire winter caring for the owl. At times it wasn’t certain the owl would be able to return to the wild, to successfully be able to hunt after substantial injury to both its legs. 

Photo credit: J.Paleczny

Jake Paleczny

Jake Paleczny

Executive Director

Jake Paleczny is passionate about interpretation and education. He gained his interpretative expertise from a decade of work in Ontario’s provincial parks in addition to a Masters in Museum Studies from the University of Toronto. His interests also extend into the artistic realm, with a Bachelor of Music from the University of Western Ontario and extensive experience in galleries and museums.

867-456-7313
jake@yukonwildlife.ca

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Northern Neck Tubes

Northern Neck Tubes

Northern Neck Tubes

6 min read

The Visitor Services team is working hard to connect with local artist to bring the connections to nature home with you. We strongly feel that by taking the time to explore these partnerships we can create unique items that guests to the Preserve can take home all while knowing their purchase in the Preserve’s Little Gift Shop not only supports these northern people but all revenue from the retail sales goes back into the operations of the Preserve, supporting the northern animals in our care.

Right now the Preserve does not do online sales. We’re a really small team that is situated out of town, and with some staff also living out of town, doing online sales and shipping feels a bit outside our capacities for the time being. 

• • •

Photo of moose in water.

This artist collaboration was an incredibly fun and colourful one – Niki Parry was the perfect artist to do a neck tube collab with given her use of silhouttes on vibrant beautiful and colourful landscapes.

Whatever you call them – neck tubes, neck gaiters, buffs, neck warmers (and now, sometimes facemasks) they are a staple of year-round outdoor gear and you can never have too many.

• • •

We reached out to Niki in September of 2020 to see if she was interesed in working on this idea with YWP. Niki jumped on it and in the following months we started sorting out details of design ideas and applications. 

We sought after Yukon Wildlife Preserve inspiration from the landscape and the animals. 

Two photos inspired Niki especially once we decided what species we wanted to capture. 

• • •

Photo credit: J.Paleczny

Niki Parry is a visual artist working primarily in acrylic paint.  Her artwork represents natural scenes with an element of abstract.  She works with bright vibrant colours and creates dynamic abstract landscapes utilizing silhouettes to create an intense contrast and bring the scene to life.    

Niki has worked with many different types of artwork throughout her life, drawn primarily to the projects where she can focus on and explore colour.  Niki was introduced to fluid acrylics six years ago and fell in love.  The combination of playing with colours in that dynamic fluid form and the process of creating joyful natural landscapes from these images had her hooked.  She has been intensively developing her painting skills and techniques ever since. 

• • •

Photo of team providing care for moose in the field.

Niki’s artistic process involves two separate components, one for creating the background and the second for hand painting to complete the scene.  The backgrounds are created with fluid acrylic paint, where acrylic paint is diluted with mediums to become runny. 

• • •

Photo of staff using stethoscope to listen to moose heart rate.

The paint is then poured onto the canvas, rather than using a brush.  It is then manipulated by moving the canvas around with gravity and other tools to mix the paint on the canvas.   Once the background is completed, then it takes 24 to 48 hours to dry before it can be moved, or else the paint will slide off the canvas.

• • •

The secondary process involves working with the background to determine how the final painting will come together.  Generally there is a plan for the background; however, with fluid paint it can be difficult to completely control all the exact details of how it will come together.  This is part of the beauty of the process, the balance between control and working with what presents itself.  The design for the painting is finalized once the background is fully dried, and the final plan for the composition is created.  The final image is created with acrylic brush painting. 

• • •

Photo of staff using stethoscope to listen to moose heart rate.

We worked with Corina at Taku Sports Group Inc. and Bula Canada to take Niki’s artwork and make it perfectly fit onto two different neck gaiters – one, a single layer do it all tube featuring two moose and a double layer, reversible fleece perfect for winter warmth featuring of course the northern iconic caribou!

• • •

These special neck tubes will be available at the Preserve’s Little Gift Shop. Niki will also have a few on hand at both the Cranberry Fair and the Spruce Bog Christmas Boutique. Both are great events to check out and support local buinesses, and artists like Niki Parry! 

• • •

Photo of staff using stethoscope to listen to moose heart rate.

Niki’s goal for creating artwork is to bring a smile to your face and lift your spirits.  She finds a great deal of happiness in creating these images and loves to share her uplifting artwork with others.

We are so grateful  (and pretty darn excited) to have worked with Niki and share her vision. We endeavour to source and support local and share a product that helps you tackle all the outdoor feats while looking extremely fashionable and warm.

From Bula – Stay Warm, Play Longer

• • •

Single Layer tube                           $38
Double Layer reversible tube       $44

Photo of staff using stethoscope to listen to moose heart rate.
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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Yukon Wildlife Preserve
Box 20191
Whitehorse, Yukon
Y1A 7A2

Proud member of:

CAZA Logo

With the support of:

Yukon Government Logo

Northern Wildlife Inspired Artwork

Northern Wildlife Inspired Artwork

Northern Wildlife Inspired Artwork

5 min read 

These mugs have literally been years in the making. Lindsay, Manager of Visitor Services has been working with local ceramic’s artist Astrid Kruse to create something exceptionally unique for the Yukon Wildlife Preserve and its visitors. 

The Visitor Services team are working hard to connect with local artist to bring the connections to nature home with you. We strongly feel that by taking the time to explore these partnerships we can create unique items that guests to the Preserve can take home all while knowing their purchase in the Preserve’s Little Gift Shop not only supports these northern people but all revenue from the retail sales goes back into the operations of the Preserve, supporting the northern animals in our care. 

• • •

Photo of moose in water.

Astrid has a strong connection to Canada’s North, having grown up in Yellowknife, NWT she moved to the Yukon in 2016 and this is where the connection with the Preserve started. Her ceramic practice has taken her many places outside of the North, taking courses, providing workshops, and a year-long residency in Alberta. When family called, Astrid made the move out east but continued to work on this special ceramics project with the Preserve. 

Astrid’s work has always been influenced by her physical environment, the land and animals so it was a natural fit to work together. 

• • •

The mugs Astrid has created for the Wildlife Preserve are one-of-kind and limited! A custom order with our logo required two firings – making the mugs incredibly strong and durable and with a crystalline glasslike form. Each mug is unique from the size and shape to the design itself. Hand made and hand drawn using a special technique called sgraffito which is a delicate scratched design on the clay make each ceramic mug a one-of-a-kind, work of art. 

• • •

Photo of staff giving moose oxygen.

Just as Astrid is inspired by the land, she used the Preserve’s animals and landscape to inspire her artwork. The small details of the mugs include species specific tracks on the handle and a large track on the bottom of the mug. 

• • •

Photo of team providing care for moose in the field.

The handle of each mug has a large thumb placement to ensure you can thoroughly enjoy that full morning cup of java.

• • •

Photo of staff using stethoscope to listen to moose heart rate.

Muskox approved!

These mugs can be purchased exclusively on-site at the Preserve’s Little Gift Shop. They retail for $72.50.

• • •

The mugs (43 of them) were first featured in the Little Gift Shop, August 14 2021. Two weeks after their debut they were half sold out! 

Photo of staff using stethoscope to listen to moose heart rate.
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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Yukon Wildlife Preserve
Box 20191
Whitehorse, Yukon
Y1A 7A2

Proud member of:

CAZA Logo

With the support of:

Yukon Government Logo

A Day with an Animal Care Assistant

A Day with an Animal Care Assistant

A Day with an Animal Care Assistant

8 minute read.

My name is Abbey, I am a part-time animal care assistant and part-time wildlife interpreter here at the Yukon Wildlife Preserve for the summer of 2021. I am a biology major at the University of Winnipeg. Fall 2021 I start my second year of my degree. One of my goals in life is to visit all three territories in Canada, with Nunavut already crossed off the Yukon was next on my list. The Wildlife Preserve offers me a chance to put my education to practice and help me decide which route in the biological field I want to pursue (I bet by the end of this post you can guess which route I am leaning towards). This post will discuss what I have experienced as an animal care assistant here at the Preserve and hopefully give some insight about what goes on behind the scenes for you the reader.

You may have been on the Preserve and been at the right place and time to see the animal care team at work. The animal care team works hard to keep the Preserve and rehabilitation animal’s happy and healthy. Working in animal care is never a stagnant job, animal needs change, babies are born, new rehabilitation animals arrive making this job ever changing. This post will follow my day around the preserve as an Animal Care Assistant starting in the Preserve’s Wildlife Rehabilitation and Research Centre, down to the first half of the lower loop up to the upper loop and back down to the second half to complete our figure eight.

This map shows the homes of each of the species in our collection located on the front and back loops of the figure 8 trail network. The Wildlife Rehabilitation Centre is located in staff access area.

Rehabilitation Centre

The Rehabilition Centre in the shadows of a golden eagle patient in the large outdoor aviary. Photo credit: J.Paleczny

To start off the day I check the animals that are in rehabilitation care to make sure their habitats are clean and that the animals are well – observation of animal behaviour is a very important role in animal care.  In the rehabilitation center the animals we look after often have strict eating schedules which dictates what is done during my day and when. An example of this is the moose we received in late May of 2021. This calf is not shy and is always excited to eat! He gets almost too excited, so we have to slow him down. It’s exactly like when your puppy eats way too fast and you have to find ways to slow them down. After feeding, we watch him until he defecates and lays down, this is an important step to ensure he is healthy and progressing how we would expect him to. As you continue reading this post you will recognize the particular theme of observing the animals’ behaviors: this is to ensure the health of the animals in our care.

Next step is to prepare the feed for the collection animals. The caribou females eat a beet pulp mixture that you just add water to and it expands twice or three times the original amount. It almost looks like that elephant toothpaste science experiment but in slow motion! We also mix that with donated fresh fruit pulp. We’re very lucky to receive support from so many local organizations including grocery stores. Fun fact, caribou don’t like citrus or ginger, they’ll eat around it and leave it behind (so we sort that out and give it to the moose).

Oranges donated from Wykes Independent Grocer.

We then prepare the carnivore food. The arctic fox, red foxes and lynx all get a healthy amount of red meat and white meat. Once the food is prepared, which means to cut it up, weigh and portion it out per species it’s placed in the fridge for later.

The silver fox enjoys lunch and is lip licking satisfied thanks to Animal Care staff food prep. Photo credit: L.Caskenette

We then head to the hay barn to get pellets for the muskox and bison. These two species don’t have a feed station attached to their habitats like the other ungulates, they are a bit too rough on their surroundings, so that means pellets are not stored at the habitat in the protective feed stations. 

Getting pellets is no small feat, the first time I tried to fill a bucket it took me four tries to get a full bucket! For reference I am 5’0, and the bags are as tall as I am when they are full. Once we have our pellets ready, we load up the animal care truck and begin our tour around the preserve.

Front Loop

In this portion of the front loop or sometimes called the lower loop we will encounter the elk, bison, mule deer and moose in that order as we start counterclockwise on the loop. We begin first by making sure all the elk are present, look alert and healthy and then check their hay and water levels.

Then we stop at the bison who are usually laying or standing around as a group. These animals get their pellets poured in two straight, long lines on the ground so there is plenty of room to share between these big, big eaters. We hang around the habitat to count the animals and check them for any changes in behaviour. This is an important opportunity to make observations in any changes of health that can be reported to Dr. Maria Hallock, our full-time veterinarian. If anything is astray Dr. Hallock will investigate further but most days I get to see and learn the amazing behaviours of these animals.

After that, we head over to the mule deer where we first check their water and then head into the feeding station where we find their stored feed, tools, and the animal information sheet. Each animal information sheet is specific to the species, we count how many animals we see and how much they are fed. We also take the time to write down any observations of the animals whether it’s a mule deer with diarrhea or a moose acting out of character all observations are recorded and forwarded to Maria.

We use a scoop instead of a bucket to pour feed into their troughs (thank goodness). In the same shed we also feed our moose and again we scoop their feed into their troughs although they have a much bigger scoop so it’s important to keep everything separate.

Back Loop

In the back loop we will find our thinhorn sheep, caribou and mountain goats. We move to our thinhorn sheep where we wear booties and gloves to protect them from outside pathogens. This species tends to be more susceptible to bacteria’s so the Preserve biosecurity is heightened here when entering their habitat.

Left photo shows a thinhorn sheep sedated for a check up and hoof trimming. Right shows Outdoor Operations staff working on fencing within the ewe habitat. Both photos show staff wearing booties and gloves to help protect the animals against pathogens. Photo credit: J.Paleczny

This species has both pellets and hay in their feeding station. Learning to use a pitchfork has been a learning curve! Who knew something with so much space between each prong could carry so much?

We clean and remove excess hay and feces from the feeding stations which we compost. We head on over to the caribou (who were hoping will have babies this year) and whose food we mixed earlier.

Caribou cow and calf from summer 2019. Photo credit: J.Paleczny

We go into their habitat and create piles of the beet pulp. We then head to the mountain goats who are usually high up in the cliffs making counting them a tricky task! This species gets hay and pellets and a clean up just like the sheep do.

Mountain goats hang out on the cliff – it’s safety and sometimes sun bathing! Photo credit: L.Caskenette

Although beware of Geronimo whose patience for humans is very thin! Every animal has a personality and some are more memorable than others. The first time I met him I thought he was ill only to find out he was just in a bad mood (he always is – he’s a goat). To be fair when I say bad mood, he’s really just displaying signs of normal defensive behaviour that has been somewhat elevated due to his story as a kid.

Carnivore Corner

The back loop can be further divided into the Carnivore Corner where we will find the lynx, arctic foxes, and red foxes. The carnivore corner is where the most fun feedings occur! Sometimes we do themed enrichment feedings – check out our Halloween one!

We stop at the lynx who are usually waiting by the fence for food, I swear they hear the truck and spot the green jackets and come running! The females are most expectant and the odd time the male will be waiting too but he’s a little more reserved.

Lynx come in for feeding, intent but smooth movement towards the food. Photo credit: L.Caskenette

We head over to the arctic foxes who look super cute but throw in a piece of red meat into the mix and their carnivore side comes out. You can watch the arctic foxes feeding here! 

Very cute, but also very ready for food! Photo credit: L.Caskenette

Next, we head over to the red foxes who are the funniest to feed! ‘Definitely’ the red fox makes the cutest yipping noises when he sees you pull up! What does a fox say you might ask? It sounds something similar to a yip and laugh mixed together. He will race around to get food before the silver fox does, I swear that silver fox has more patience than I’ve ever seen.

The red fox is always ready for food and will eat as much as he possibly can. What he can’t, he will grab and go stash it. Don’t worry, the silver fox gets his share – he goes and finds the red foxes stash in his own time. Photo credit: L.Caskenette

Front Loop – Round 2

 In the second half of the lower loop we feed the muskox and check in on the elk and bison habitats as we head back to the animal care building. We then head to my favourite animal, the muskox, which is the best part of my day in animal care. These guys have a special metal structure for handling and feeding that limits contact, increases safety for staff and provides shelter for the muskox and muskox supplemental feed.

Muskox do not have feed stations. Instead, they have a metal handling and feeding structure to ensure the safety of both staff and muskox along with the longetivey of the building! Photo credit: J.Paleczny

 Muskox are incredibly fierce with a social order that is largely based on an aggressive hierarchy but they are also protective of their herd. There’s nothing more intimidating than a territorial, protective and potential in rut (mating season) muskox so it’s best to keep your distance.

If the bison or the elk were too far away on my first look I will spend this time counting and watch for behavioral changes on this part of the loop. 

All while this is happening, we have to be wary of our time for feeding our rehab animals on tight schedules. There is also time during the day to do some other tasks like creating habitats for our rehabilitation animals or doing some spring cleaning in some of the collection animals’ habitats. By the time this is all done my arm and back muscles are jelly and I am ready to hand off the torch to the next animal care assistant. 

To conclude my time here at Yukon Wildlife Preserve is an experience I will never forget from feeding my favourite animal (the muskox) to finding a new passion in helping care for animals. While I came for a summer, for work, the Yukon and it’s incredible fauna hold a strong place in my heart, summer 2022 can’t come soon enough!  In the meantime and year-round you can go behind the scenes and witness the extreme care and diligent work that is required by Animal Care staff to care for all the animals at the Preserve through a variety of experience and tour options – check it out! 

Abbey Mondor

Abbey Mondor

Wildlife Interpreter & Animal Care Assistant

Abbey joined the preserve the summer of 2021 to continue a lifelong dream of experiencing all three of Canada’s territories. With Nunavut already crossed off, the yukon was the next on her list! Abbey is currently studying biology at the University of Winnipeg making this experience a perfect place for her to put her education to practice! Abbey works both in visitor services and animal care where her desire to care for wildlife has grown. Her favourite part about working on the preserve is learning about all the personalities of the animals here.

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