Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Dances with Musk oxen...

The other evening and night I went out to provide some musk oxen with metal rings - much like the bird people do - for individual recognition. I also wanted some tooth samples. That last part can be tricky. Luckily all the oxen I handled were dead ones and some of them have been so for years... Until now we have marked Musk oxen carcasses found in the field with a black marker pen on the horn, but it wears off after some years and that is when it is easier to get a tooth loose. I also checked the fox dens at this side of the river. At den 10, I saw 5 juveniles. They were much active than last time I visited and walked around between the den holes and explored the vicinity. They were pretty curious as to what kind of strange animal I was. Later on the mountain, I had to pass a sleeping musk ox bull. As to not surprise it, I whistled gently. It stood up and walked slowly towards some other oxen as I slowly passed in a distance of about 100m. As I was about 300m away, it started a shadow fight backing up swinging its massive head, then rushed forward as if charging an invisible bull and hitting it. Then it stabbed the ground with the sharp horns and made a nice full circle turning around itself. It did all this a few times. It seemed like as it was going through all the things it should have done and said... to me - if only... I once saw a bull do a somewhat similar "dance" turning around itself. That was last year as I was guiding some visitors in August. The animal got surprised by us and crossed the river to the other side. Back on shore it spun round as if spin drying and it did have some effect as water was flying off its thick hair to all sides. Today Julie and I will attempt to cross to the other side ourselves in a small rubber boat over the present delta. We will make use of the high tide and will only return at next high tide 2 o'clock early tomorrow.
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