Jimmie Lincoln wanted to get out of town, so he jumped on his snowmachine and took off. Less than two miles later, he came upon something he calls “unbelievable.”
It was Tuesday afternoon near his home of Toksook Bay.
“I saw these stray dogs or wild dogs attacking this poor muskox,” he remembered.
It was hard to tell if there were three or four dogs. They were big, black, and aggressive. The muskox looked like a yearling with no horns.
“I felt so bad for that muskox," Lincoln said, "and I started yelling at them.”
One dog turned to him and started growling. Lincoln drove away, still trying to absorb what he had seen. No one in town has ever heard of dogs taking down a muskox.
“This was my first time ever seeing anything like this besides National Geographic,” he said.
Lincoln returned to the site a half-hour later. The muskox looked weak, and the dogs were still attacking. The next morning the muskox was lying on the ground, still alive, and one of the dogs had been shot. The whereabouts of the other dogs are unknown, and local hunters are on the lookout.
Alaska Department of Fish and Game Wildlife Biologist Patrick Jones calls this a new situation. He’s heard of a dog killing a muskox calf that was only a few days old, and there’s history of dogs killing moose and caribou, but no coordinated hunt like this.
“This is the first time I’m aware of dogs actually working together in a pack and killing an animal that seems to be at least a year old,” Jones said.
Most encouters between muskox and dogs in the state end in the muskox killing a tied-up dog. It’s mainly a problem in the Norton Sound area.
Muskox hunting is tightly regulated, and Jones advises locals to let nature take its course. The meat, he says, is unsalvageable. The animal has been under tremendous stress and likely wouldn’t taste good. Also, the dogs could have infected it with disease.