Living Large

that is what the animals do at Fairbanks Large Animal Research Station.  I decided to live large here twice.  I never thought I would see muskox let alone see them eat lars11or see babies (6 born this year). https://lars4 The muskox are not good parents in captivity because food is plenty and there are no predators, because of this the babies are usually separated from the moms to be bottled fed. The two babies in the pen though have stayed with their moms because the two females are really good moms.   The animals aren’t trained but they are exposed to some human interaction so they are not totally stressed out when they have to have contact for research and to check the health of the herd. I will say that the tour guides have been trained by the animals, on the flip side especially Casey.  The presentation involves showing how the animals eat, this is done by allowing them to eat willow branches which is high in copper.  The greens you see in the pictures are actually fireweed due to the fact that the willow leaves are not in season now.  I think these animals will eat anything, when they are in the stantions  for the qiviut deshedding or vet checks they are bribed with cheerios.  If Casey doesn’t get her snacks quick enough she will do a paw dance on the fence to get the attention of the guide.  lars10lars3Even though they seem like docile animals there is always a chance the switch could flip in the animal’s brain and they start to act like the wild animals that they are.  So she does stress that some distance is very wise.  At the end of the tour she shows a stantion that is damaged due to an incident where the switch was flipped. The person who was in the stantion was not hurt.

These animals are built for the artic that is a definite.  I am amazed at the fact that in the winter the amount of heat loss that occurs is very slim.  Can you imagine standing outside in 40 below and being perfectly warm.  The reason they can do this is they have hair in the mouth, eyelids, when they close both it allows nothing in and the fact that their nostrils have extra chambers to warm the air before it enters the lungs. The tubes you see in the picture lars12 is the warming chambers inside the nose Another adaptation these animals have for winter survival is the fact that under the hair is a soft down called qiviut or underwool. It is like having a down coat or insulated underwear on.  The tour guide Christine has a cowl made from the qiviut that is spun into yarn then knitted or crocheted.  She does not even think about wearing it until it is at least 10 below. I can tell you I did not buy any yarn or cowls they were selling in the store.  I would never ever be able to wear the article had I bought it.  The qiviut from the muskox at the facility is harvested then turned into yarn so the they can sell the yarn and products in the store and the proceeds go back into LARS. lars1On a side note I did buy a t-shirt and a headband, neither of which were made of qiviut.

I also learned that once the muskox horns stop growing if one breaks you end up with a one horned muskox lars8 or an unicorn impersonator.

I like to believe that it is an unicorn.  My story is all I’m saying.  Losing a horn in the wild can be deadly at the station you just get separated.  In the wild the horns are sharp and pointed but at the station the horns after they stop growing the tips are ground down for everyone’s protection. Seeing the difference between the male and female skulls just proves to me that males are truly hard headed. lars5You have to be if you want to be king of the hill during rutting season.  Even though the males do not have to rut to be king of the hill because the station is in charge of saying who gets to be king of the hill and who is in whose harem.  That was a rabbit hole I went on because of a male’s hard head.

At Lars they also have Reindeer which are not domesticated Caribou contrary to popular belief. follow the link to learn more about the differences.  Female reindeer have larger antlers then female caribou, male reindeer have smaller antlers then male caribou.  These are a set of caribou antlers larscar The inteesting thing about antlers is they fall off every year unlike the horns on the muskox.  These reindeer are being feed just like the muskox were, on my first visit the reindeer were all up in the guides back going give me the treats now.  The second visit she basically had to ignore them after she put the fireweed in the fence. I guess they are not trained.  Here you can see she is ignoring lars6 the reindeer and she is trying to get the guides attention.  The second tour once the reindeer realized there were good treats at the fence they gladly ate the fireweed. lars9

It was so enjoyable seeing the interaction between the animals, guides, and the tour groups.  I am also happy that they provided a golf cart that allowed Roy to also enjoy the tour the first time and gave me a chance to come back and do the tour again.  If you are ever in Fairbanks this is off the beaten path but well worth it.

One thought on “Living Large

Comments are closed.