Otherwise sentenced to starvation or drowning, Alaskans will now be allowed to harvest musk oxen stranded on ice floes.
In a surreal situation to hunters in the Lower 48, Alaskan residents will be permitted to kill musk oxen stranded on ice floes in the Bering Sea.
Lamenting the waste of meat, the Alaska Board of Game approved the rule at the urging of residents of Mekoryuk, a small Cu’pik Eskimo community on Nunivak Island 30 miles off the Seward Peninsula north of the Aleutian Islands, according to ABC News. In order to legally harvest the animals, hunters must submit photographic evidence that the animal was indeed trapped on the sea ice.
Assistant state area biologist Patrick Jones acknowledged that oxen trapped on ice floes were likely to drown or starve as they are “terrible swimmers.”
“This occurs every couple of years,” Jones said. “It just seems like a waste for them not to harvest these animals.”
Why the musk oxen wander onto the sea ice is a mystery, but some theorize they hone in on distant smells that lead them into the precarious habitat. At times during the spring, the ice breaks apart, stranding the animals. That is when hunters pursuing walrus or seal locate the oxen.
Musk oxen are large, shaggy animals indigenous to the Arctic Circle. The population in Alaska was transplanted from Greenland after the native stock was extirpated in the 1920s. Bulls reach heights of five feet at the shoulder and weigh up to 800 pounds with horns covering their forehead.
Musk oxen meat is valued by locals.
“A lot of people compare it to a goat or sheep. Also, it’s one of the few wild animals that has fat marbled through the meat,” Jones said. “It’s incredible. It’s really rich.”