Dynamics of muskox groups in northeastern Alaska


  • P. E. Reynolds




muskoxen, group size, population dynamics


Group size and stability was studied in a population of re-established muskoxen (Ovibos moschatus) in northeastern Alaska by re-locating radio-collared animals. Mixed-sex groups (cows, calves, sub-adults and often adult bulls) ranged in size from 2-118 with a mean of 19.2. Almost 60 % of all mixed-sex groups contained 5¬19 individuals. Solitary cows were seen infrequently. Adult bulls were observed in mixed-sex groups, in bull groups or alone. Bull groups averaged 3.9 and ranged in size from 2 to 12. Thirty percent of all adult bulls seen outside mixed-sex groups were solitary animals. Mixed-sex groups were significantly smaller in summer/ rut Quly-September) than in midwinter Qanuary-March), spring/calving (April-June) and early winter (October-November). Mean group size was 12.2 in August compared with 23.6 in February. In August, during the rut, numbers of small groups (2-14) increased, while numbers of medium-sized (15-29) and large groups (> 29) decreased. Bull groups were significantly larger in spring/calving than during other seasons. The ratio of single bulls to bull groups was less than 0.30 in winter, increased in June, and reached a maximum during the rut in August when more than 2 single bulls were seen for every bull group. Group size and individuals within a group changed frequently. This fluid social system provides a balance between protection from predators, efficient food acquisition and the formation of harems during the rut.




How to Cite

Reynolds, P. E. (1993). Dynamics of muskox groups in northeastern Alaska. Rangifer, 13(2), 83–89. https://doi.org/10.7557/