European wildlife: Muskoxen (Ovibos moschatus) in winter, Dovrefjell National Park, Norway

March 10, 2014  •  Leave a Comment

European wildlife: Muskoxen (Ovibos moschatus) in winter, Dovrefjell National Park, Norway.

These are some of the bulls my friend and fellow photographer Niels Kooijman and I followed during our 13 day trip in Dovrefjell. We counted up to 15 bulls in the group. The muskoxen had a distinct schedule and we adapted to that. In the morning they grazed, primarily lichen and creeping willow. The animals concentrated their feeding activities on the wind swept slopes and they used their hoofs to scrape the remaining snow and ice off the vegetation. Around noon they sparred for about 15-30 minutes. Afterwards they bedded down and ruminated, perhaps until 4 pm or so.

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Muskoxen (Ovibos moschatus) in winter, Dovrefjell National Park, NorwayMuskoxen (Ovibos moschatus) in winter, Dovrefjell National Park, NorwayMuskoxen (Ovibos moschatus) in winter, Dovrefjell National Park, Norway. Muskoxen evolved in Asia and adapted to arctic tundra environments. Muskoxen became extinct in Europe (last records are from Sweden about 9,000 years ago) and Asia (last records are from the Taymyr peninsula in Russia about 2,000 years ago), probably primarily as a result of over hunting by people. Muskoxen crossed into North America from Siberia between 200,000 and 90,000 years ago and they survived in Alaska, northern Canada and Greenland. Muskoxen were reintroduced in Europe and Asia relatively recently. Muskoxen were first reintroduced in Dovrefjell National Park in Norway in 1931-1932, but these animals were all killed during the second world war. A second reintroduction attempt (1947-1953) was successful though. The muskoxen population size in Dovrefjell National Park is currently estimated at several hundred individuals.

 

 


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