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The musk ox (Ovibos moschatus) is an immense horned creature with thick and woolly hair. Male or female, these herbivorous mammals have large horns that are off-whitish in color. As the Arctic creatures grow older, their horns continue to increase in length. Related to goats, they are social and reside within "herd" units.
Musk oxen have black or deep brown coats that enable them to manage in frigid weather conditions. Their hair, which is capable of growing upwards of 36 inches in length, helps to offer effective insulation for them amidst temperature extremes and aggressive winds. Musk oxen generally achieve body weights between 500 and 800 pounds, along with heights of 4 to 5 feet, measuring from the shoulder. The grazing animals, apart from grasses, feed heavily on mosses, herbs, willows, sedges, crowberries, lichen, shrub foliage, roots and forbs.
These Arctic tundra residents live in Greenland, the northern portion of Canada, Alaska and Russia. In Russia, they inhabit both Wrangel Island and the Taymyr Peninsula, where they were introduced. Also through species introduction, some musk oxen live in Norway. Musk oxen have been roaming Arctic areas for several millennia, notes National Geographic.
Musk oxen tend to remain in tundras and also in places with ample hills. They live in areas above the tree line, which separates environments that have the ability to sustain trees from those that don't. Trees are not part of the surrounding landscapes for these animals. Musk oxen aren't particularly skilled at searching for food amidst dense snow, so they tend to look for places that don't receive especially large amounts of it, according to the Department of Fish and Game for Alaska.
Regarding population, musk oxen are part of the "least concern" division, indicates the IUCN Red List of Threatened Species' 2008 report. Musk oxen are believed to have strong and constant numbers within their geographic scope, from Canada and Alaska to Greenland and elsewhere. Despite this, musk oxen have indeed experienced population troubles in the past, mostly because of excessive hunting. These large animals have been targets for hunters looking to attain both their flesh and skins. The international population of musk oxen is thought to be approximately 125,000, according to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.
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