LARS greets summer with new arrivals

Heather Bryant / Sun Star Reporter
May 30, 2011

Four calves were born between April 30 and May 8, 2011. The two females and two males push the herd to 29 muskoxen. May 26, 2011. Heather Bryant/Sun Star.

Four muskox calves were born the last part of April and first week of May at the Robert G. White Large Animal Research Station. The two females and two males put the total number of muskoxen in LARS’ herd at 29.

The pairs of cows and calves have been staying in the shade to deal with the heat wave Fairbanks has been experiencing. At this point, the cows are very protective of their young, rubbing their heads on stumps and fallen trees before charging people at the fence.

“Rubbing the head is a warning sign,” said John Blake, the veterinarian for LARS. “On the tundra, they don’t have anything to rub on. The males will rub their heads on their legs.”

Two orphan calves have also been staying at LARS. On May 12, an Alaska Fish and Game researcher observed a calf about a mile away from a herd at the North Slope. According to Fish and Game, the researcher found tracks in the area indicating a grizzly bear may have chased and scattered the group. The researcher was unable to reunite the calf with the herd, and the calf had become too weak to survive on its own.

On May 13, Fish and Game was notified that Alyeska workers in the same area had spotted another calf several miles from the herd. A veterinarian working for Alyeska was given permission to transport the calf to Fairbanks.

“First time mothers often don’t go back and look for their calf after being separated,” said wildlife biologist Beth Lenart in a Fish and Game press release. “It’s not uncommon, and nature takes its course. What is very unusual is that the calves were noticed by trained staff in the field, that LARS was able to temporarily house the calves, that transportation was available, and that requests for muskox calves to permanent homes had been approved and were on file. Things fell into place.”

Both calves are currently being bottle-fed until they are old enough to eat grain. One was transferred to the Alaska Zoo on May 26. The other will be joining the herd at LARS.

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