8.24.2013

Musk Ox!

Hubby made the mistake of letting me set the itinerary for our Alaska trip, which is why we ended up at Large Animal Research Station in Fairbanks, in addition to the Musk Ox Farm in Palmer. More musk ox! With bonus caribou and baby reindeer!

It was pouring rain - again - so we hung out in the gift shop waiting for the tour to start. Big mistake. I might have gone a little overboard, with gifts for me (quiviet!), and Leanne, and me (more quiviet), and friends, and um, me again (sweatshirt! mug! keychain!!)


Hubby had to make two separate trips to the car, hauling all my treasures. But hey, somebody has to keep the farm in grass, right? Pretty sure I made their profit margin for the day, all by myself.

Our guide was great, introducing us to Scarlett

and Iris, the "geriatric" girls. (it's breeding season and all the younger ladies were occupied elsewhere.)

Musk ox were extinct in Alaska until they were reintroduced in 1935, with 34 animals transported from their native Greenland via boat and train to Norway, New York, Seattle, and finally Alaska. About 4300 musk oxen now live in Alaska.

Wouldn't these skulls make great Halloween masks?

Fun fact: at LARS, rather than wait for their musk oxen to shed quiviet naturally (and messily), each animal is combed with an 'afro pick' and the 3-4 pounds of quiviet comes off in one big sheet.

We also met Guepe, the alpha caribou, with his amazing antlers. Each side weighs about 30 pounds; can you imagine carrying that around for months at a time? Headache! As caribou age, their antlers get bigger each year and they always grow back in the same pattern.

Fun fact: boys lose their antlers after mating season, but girls keep their antlers until after they give birth - and use them to push the males around, especially when it involves food during the winter. Sounds fair to me!

What's the difference between caribou and reindeer? One book I read said reindeer were "domesticated, lazy-ass caribou." Not quite true, said our guide. Reindeer are caribou that have been bred to have shorter legs and rounder bodies; the easier to catch (they're slower) and the better to eat (more meat). And I can testify that reindeer is delicious.

The tour was great and I'm really glad we went, even though it meant not getting into Anchorage - 360+ miles and 8+ hours of driving in pouring rain - until 9:30 that night. We got a bit of encouragement just north of Wasilla though, with about 2 hours left to go.

Beautiful.