Yet another musk ox attack over the weekend has left dog owners aggravated, while Nome residents and wildlife officials dispute who is responsible for coming up with a solution to the problem.
This time, the victim was Mitch Erickson’s dog Onslo, who was tethered to a dog box at the lot Erickson shares with Diana Adams. Last week, Adams was cited for killing a musk ox in Icy View.
Erickson explained how he found his dog lot. “You could see the pen was thrashed and the two dogs that were in it were loose. And I realized one was missing,” said Erickson. “He was found about an hour later and we had to put him down cause he was all torn up.”
This isn’t the first time musk ox have threatened Erickson and Adams’s lot. Last year, two separate incidents left their dogs injured or worse.
“So we’re two dead and one wounded,” said Erickson.
He and fellow dog owners have basically set up a neighborhood watch to protect their pets, since the flares, firecrackers—even bear urine—that’s been used hasn’t been effective in scaring off the large bulls. But, Erickson said, he sympathizes with the Alaska Department of Fish & Game, who have finally resorted to opening a small musk ox hunt.
Peter Bente, ADF&G wildlife biologist, said this year, the subsistence hunting season begins August 1.
“There’s a total of five permits that could hunt close to Nome with restricted weapons,” said Bente. “And that means a shotgun or a bow and arrow or a muzzleloader, and you have to be certified so there’s some hoops to jump through but this is the first time that we would have summer hunting close to Nome and maybe that’ll influence the distribution of animals.”
Bear season will also open August 1 for Unit 22(C) with one bear per year—a change from the previous limit of one bear every four years.
However, some community members think action needs to happen faster. Nome resident Susan Wolf recently started a petition calling for a “workable solution” to the musk ox problem. The petition had over 100 signatures as of July 30, and will be delivered to ADF&G.
“I’ve seen firsthand this past Saturday what happens to a dog when a musk ox goes after it, and it really did attack the dog. It ripped it off its chain, the chain was still attached to its neck,” said Wolf. “I just think that our musher community is important and I think it’s time to put their minds at ease.”
Wolf and others believe it’s only a matter of time before people are among the musk ox casualties. John Handeland, Nome Joint Utility System’s general manager, signed the petition because he’s seen the problem escalate over the years and believes the state has an obligation to protect the citizenry.
“I’m not an advocate to just mow down all of these animals, but they do need to be moved out of the community,” said Handeland.
Bente says a “workable solution” is on F&G’s agenda, and they have a public meeting tentatively scheduled for August 26 so that city officials, law enforcement, ADF&G and members of the public can strategize. Until then, Bente urges people to call ADF&G or Nome Police any time during the day or night if they see problem musk ox.
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