If you ever find yourself walking through the Alaskan bush, there’s a small chance you could come across one of the state’s little-known animals.
The behemoths, Ice Age relics who can weigh up to 800 pounds, look like monsters from Inuit mythology.
These animals are not magical creature, but muskoxen.
The hairy beasts are one of the few Ice Age megafauna in the Americas to survive changing weather and human hunters, but the millennia have not been kind on the humble muskox.
According to the Alaska Department of Fish and Game, the animals once roamed the North America, Asia and Europe. By the 1920s, the beasts could only be found in Greenland and remote reaches of Canada.
In 1930, an attempt was made to reintroduce the muskox back to Alaska.
A total of 34 of the creatures were captured and relocated to Nunivak Island.
The population quickly bloomed, with the herd growing to over 700 animals within four decades.
In recent years, Alaskan herds have remained stable enough for hunters to harvest hundreds of the animals.
Should these animals be reintroduced to their former habitats?
Meat and fur from the muskox are highly valued for their numerous positive qualities.
The animals have become so numerous that some males of the species are venturing out from their herds’ ranges and into human-populated areas.
According to Alaska Public Media, the animals numbered more than 5,000 across the state as of 2011.
While the animals seem benign, they can put up a fierce fight when cornered. This makes the creatures a problem when human curiosity overlaps with their natural behavior.
One shocking attribute is the muskox doesn’t cower in a fight against dogs, but put on an all-out offensive.
“Probably a self-defense mechanism that goes back to the Ice Age,” ADFG wildlife biologist Pat Jones told APM.
“They will kill dogs if they get the chance. If there’s a musk ox around and you have a dog on a chain you’ll want to bring it inside for a day or two till the musk ox passes.
“Every year, musk ox kill dogs that are chained up outside.”
Video taken in 2018 shows the raw power these Alaskan giants can unleash.
WARNING: The following video contains vulgar language that some viewers may find offensive:
Thankfully, it seems that a little awareness and common sense is all it takes to avoid a dangerous confrontation with these beasts.
We are committed to truth and accuracy in all of our journalism. Read our editorial standards.