Hunting season opens for musk ox stranded on sea ice

The Dept. of Fish and Game has issued an emergency order, allowing hunting for musk oxen stranded on sea ice. muskox 4

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The department issued a press releaseWednesday afternoon, stating that the resident hunting season for musk oxen begins Thursday.

The order affects Unit 18, in southwest Alaska.

The area’s assistant biologist, Patrick Jones, says the order is meant to help curve musk oxen overpopulation.

“The big danger of overpopulation whether it’s caribou or musk ox, is the habitat that they’re using,” said Jones.

The habitat, or environment, the musk ox use cannot support their large numbers. If all the food is eaten, the populations risks starvation and die-off.

Surveys conducted this summer revealed that the islands of Nunivak and Nelson were experiencing overwhelming populations.

On Nunivak Island, there are more than 700 muskoxen, but the population goal is around 500.

Nelson Island’s musk ox population is much higher, at more than 900. The population goals for this island is nearly half that.

Jones says the recent mild winters have helped increase the populations.

He expects the hunting will go on for another three years, until populations are down to their goals.

In regards to shooting the animals on the ice, the press release allows hunters to hunt them if they are stranded on “free-floating ice completely surrounded by salt water.”

“They’re not swimmers, they’re not going to swim,” said Jones. “They’re going to ride that chunk of ice out until they starve or fall in the water and drown.”

Jones says a hunting license is still needed for the season.