Another close encounter with a musk ox -- this time in the Northwest Alaska community of Wales -- involved an angry bull charging a tethered dog several times before the musk ox was killed.
The attack comes amid a summer of similar threats to dogs -- and people -- in and around Nome, some of which have left dogs dead and resulted in musk ox shot “in defense of life or property,” or DLP.
Helena Oxereok was using a four-wheeler to haul water with her sister's boyfriend on Aug. 16 when she saw the shaggy bull come from behind her house in Wales, about 110 miles northwest of Nome. Despite neighbors and family members yelling and revving their four-wheelers to scare the animal away, she said, the bull ignored them until it saw her dog Sam.
“And then it started chasing my dog around its house -- maybe six times my dog had to run away,” Oxereok said Thursday in a phone interview.
“At one point, it got to where my dog was being pushed but not really hurt, pushed by the musk ox’s head, and I’m glad the chain didn’t get caught on his horns, otherwise he would have been in big trouble.”
Oxereok said her brother Randy grabbed his SKS rifle and shot several warning shots in the air, but the musk ox was unfazed.
“It didn’t even budge!” she said. “It just looked at my brother like nothing happened. Then it started chasing ... Sam again.”
That’s when Randy shot the animal, first in the shoulder and then in the neck and head, Oxereok said.
“The musk ox was 20 … not even 20 feet from our doorstep,” she said.
Oxereok said her brother called the Alaska State Troopers to report the DLP kill. Alaska Department of Fish and Game assistant area biologist Letty Hughes confirmed the DLP take Friday.
Oxerock said that, in keeping with the requirements of DLP wildlife kills, her family immediately butchered the animal and shared the meat with friends and relatives.
She said her mother collected tufts of the animal’s underfur -- the highly-prized qiviut -- and her father has plans for the bull’s horns.
“My dad’s going to cut off the horns and use them as ulu handles,” she said, “because he’s been wanting to go look for musk ox horns for that purpose.”
The bull was the second musk ox killed in Wales in as many weeks. Fish and Game’s Hughes said the department investigated a dead musk ox a few miles outside of the community last week but determined the animal had died after it had been gored by another musk ox.
Oxereok said Wales, like Nome, has seen an overall increase in musk oxen living close to town this summer.