Musk ox dispatched after wounding sled dog
A single mature bull musk ox got into the dog yard owned by Kamey and Curtis Worland on Sunday, Nov. 29 and wounded one sled dog. The musk ox had broken through the fence surrounding the dog lot, which is located just off the Nome-Teller Highway. The attack was discovered by the dog feeder who arrived just before noon to find the bull still in the dog yard. Alaska State Troopers were called and arrived shortly after. They helped move the sled dogs to safety and began trying to remove the musk ox from the dog yard. The bull refused to move and became more agitated so the Troopers decided it was unsafe to continue with a less than lethal option. The bull was dispatched by the Troopers and salvaged by a subsistence permit holder.
The injured dog is Missy, a seven-year-old husky owned by Janet Balice. “My dog Missy was what looked like mortally wounded in the usual Nome musk ox fashion. She had an abdominal hole and one other smaller injury but somehow in this case managed to survive,” wrote Balice in an email to the Nugget. “It was thought that we had our dogs protected from musk ox in the recommended way but it seems just like lightening striking.” The dog slipped her collar and managed to escape further attacks of the bull. She ran two miles down the Nome-Teller Highway, despite her serious wounds, and was picked up by a driver.
Balice raised Missy and runs her in lead in her small recreational team. “Plus she is my ‘best friend’ dog and —as dog owners will know— that makes her part of the family,” said Balice. “Losing her was not an option.”
The dog was transported to Anchorage where she underwent three hours of surgery and shortly after was resting in the ICU at Midnight Sun Veterinary Hospital. “They have been great and saved my dog’s life because when they went into the wound, they discovered that the tusk had entered her body, broke a rib and then somehow miraculously exited in the exact same spot,” said Balice.
Kamey Worland credits the team at Animal House and Emily Stotts at RAAR for delivering as much medical care as possible and then getting her flown out as quickly as possible to a veterinarian. “Ashley Vaughn, vet tech at Animal House, was willing to come in on her day off and provide care, including X-rays, via tele-health over the phone with Dr. Van Scriver,” said Worland. “Emily Stotts with RAAR was quick to book the dog out on the next available flight, which was 24 hours after the injury occurred. She works with a network of volunteers with AK Dog and Cat Rescue who picked up the injured dog and got her to the vet.”
This musk ox attack came late in the season. “By about the time the snow flies the frequency of these nuisance musk ox issues has died down,” said Bill Dunker of the Alaska Department of Fish and Game.
“As long as there are musk ox in the area the potential still exists. But given the pattern over the last ten years or so to have issues with them this late in the season is a little odd.” Once the rut has passed the animals are less likely to be aggressive. “During the rut we advise people to be cautious around bulls,” said Dunker. “They are more easily agitated and more defensive during the rut. But they deserve respect at any time of the year. People should give them a wide berth even outside of the rut. But particularly so during that time frame.”
This is the first Defense of Life and Property dispatch of a musk ox this year, according to Dunker.
While most musk oxen migrate into the hills during the winter, there are some that remain in the lower areas. Dunker said their habitat is generally any wind blown, exposed area. They don’t do well in deep heavy snow. “Certainly windblown coastal plains are common for wintering musk ox habitat,” he said.
“Without organizations and businesses like this here in Nome this dog would not have survived,” said Kamey Worland. “She was able to make it to Anchorage and have the surgery she needed to save her life and due to the care received from Ashley Vaughn and Dr. Van Scriver. We are incredibly thankful for everyone involved, and especially for stepping in on a day off.”
“It was a day and a half that is a pet owner’s worst nightmare, having a pet with a life threatening condition and have to manage all of the above to get her care and then still wait through a three hour surgery before knowing the outcome,” said Balice. Because of COVID-19 restrictions she was unable to accompany Missy on the flight to Anchorage.