Sunday, January 15, 2017

Endangered Animal Highlight: Musk Ox

Quiz: Which of these is from Star Wars, and which is an endangered species?

The answer is that the one that looks from a movie (right) is a Bantha from Star Wars, whereas the one that looks like a real animal (left) is the Musk Ox.  The Musk Ox is an endangered species.

They are accustomed to extremely cold temperatures. Warmer summers in their natural habitat - which include Canada, Greenland, and parts of Alaska - could take a toll on its population. Though they closely resemble a buffalo, their actually ore closely related to sheep and goats. Their closest relative is actually the Takin, which is a goat-antelope that lives in the Himalayas. 

Sadly, the Musk Ox has become an endangered species, with its world-wide population estimated at 125,000 as of 1995. That population has likely decreased, with estimates being around 80,000 now. A major threat is hunting, which has been controlled in some regions.  Musk Ox hides, horns, and bones have been used to make things.

Here are some interesting facts:
  • The muskox and the caribou are the only two arctic hoofed mammals that survived the end of the Pleistocene Era (10,000 years ago).
  • Their hooves are so strong that they can break through the solid ice in the Arctic to get to the water below.
  • They are herbivores. But because plants are normally only available for a short time in their Arctic region, they have to paw through the snow to find plants.
  • They are herd animals, and groups of 2-3 dozen of them will often be led by a single female. When the herd is threatened, they form a tight circle in group defense.
  • Calves are born directly into the snow during April after an 8 month gestation period. 

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