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Rural Alaska

Snowmachiner watches wild dogs take down musk ox in Western Alaska

BETHEL - A man riding his snowmachine in Western Alaska said he came across an “unbelievable” sight - a pack of wild dogs attacking a young musk ox.

Jimmie Lincoln was riding near the village of Toksook Bay on Tuesday when he saw three or four big black dogs taking down what appeared to be a yearling without horns, KYUK-AM reported.

“I saw these stray dogs or wild dogs attacking this poor musk ox,” Lincoln said.

Lincoln started yelling at the dogs but drove away when one started growling at him, he said. Dogs taking down a musk ox is unheard of in the village.

"This was my first time ever seeing anything like this besides National Geographic," Lincoln said.

The dogs were still attacking when Lincoln returned about a half-hour later. He went back to the scene of the attack the next morning and found the musk ox still alive and one of the dogs shot. The other dogs were gone.

Patrick Jones, wildlife biologist for the state Department of Fish and Game, said he has heard of dogs killing moose, caribou and a days-old musk ox calf, but nothing like this attack.

"This is the first time I'm aware of dogs actually working together in a pack and killing an animal that seems to be at least a year old," Jones said.

Most encounters between the two species have involved tied-up dogs getting killed by musk ox, Jones said.

Jones said people should let nature take its course, noting that the meat from the musk ox is unsalvageable. The Arctic animal was under tremendous stress, so its meat likely wouldn’t taste good, he said. The dogs also could have infected it with disease.