Over the weekend, a hunter in Nome killed the first muskox since the Alaska Department of Fish & Game opened the hunt on August first.
Tony Gorn, wildlife biologist for Fish & Game, said the department received a call about an animal in town and alerted the five permit holders in Unit 22(C) that a bull was available for harvest.
“We responded to a musk ox that was close to town, and it was just a unique opportunity—now with the regulation change that we made—for the hunter to harvest this animal,” said Gorn. “The hunter became aware that it was there and went out and got it.”
Gorn did not release the name of the hunter, but said the hunter used a shotgun to take the animal—a mature, lone bull—in lower Dry Creek. Some Nome residents have attributed much of the recent violence to one old bull, but Gorn said this musk ox wasn’t displaying aggressive behavior when it was killed.
Four permit holders are still eligible for a muskox take until the season closes in mid-March. But Gorn said he’s skeptical about how effective the hunt will be in shifting the distribution of the herd.
“It’s going to be very difficult to identify. With or without hunting, we’ve had muskox in the Nome area for several years and they come and they go all by themselves,” said Gorn. “It’s going to be very difficult to say we killed one muskox bull and now our problems are over, or we killed five muskox bulls and all our problems are over now.”
While the hunt may be an opportunity to eliminate the immediate nuisance if permit holders target specific ‘problem bulls,’ Gorn said the true challenge is finding a long-term solution.
“This idea—and I know there’s a lot of frustrated people in town but—this idea that Fish and Game can somehow create a muskox free zone around Nome—it’s going to be difficult, if not impossible, to do,” said Gorn.
Gorn said keeping the herds completely out of Nome means having greater threats in town than they would face in the wild with their natural predators, like bears and wolves. For now, he said there’s no overnight fix to the muskox problem.
Meanwhile, another dog is recovering after being gored by a muskox, this time on Anvil Mountain. Monica Gomez’s dog Kona is recovering from the attack that came late last week during a run on the iconic Nome hilltop.
Gomez said her children and their friend Taylor McDaniel were taking the dog on a run when the dog ran into the fog. McDaniel said the kids piled into the truck to go looking for their pet.
“About ten minutes later we heard yelping, and we were just honking, figuring she would come to the truck if she heard it,” said McDaniel. “About five minutes later, she came up to the truck limping with blood coming down her rear thigh.”
Gomez said Kona got 13 stitches but seems to be recovering well. Now, she’s urging her children to take extra precautions since the muskox have been behaving unpredictably.