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GPS finds muskoxen mobility casts wide range

by GPS4US 2013-09-26 15:24

Today we’re taking a look at the musk ox.

Yep, it’s entirely possible you’ve never heard of the musk ox, but researchers have used GPS tracking to follow the movements of the prehistoric mammal over the last four years.

In March 2009, researchers fitted 121 adult female muskoxen with radio collars in Alaska. Of those, 36 were monitored every four hours by GPS coordinates. The research ended in June 2013, when the collars were programmed to drop off the muskoxen.

One 567-pound subject was particularly mobile, moving 150 miles throughout the four-year period, stopping at Alaska’s Serpentine River, Brevig Mission and the York Mountains.

When we started the muskox project, the conventional wisdom was muskoxen have a very energy conservative lifestyle and that they tended to inhabit small home ranges throughout their life, wrote Dr. Lane Adams, who administered the study. “While we have had some individuals that have limited home ranges, we have many examples of individuals that have made more extensive movements.”  

The findings were a bit shocking to Adams, because females muskoxen should be the least likely to move such great distances.


Although the movements of this individual may set the extreme for movements we documented, the take-home message is that wide-ranging movements and interchange of individuals across long distances is occurring within the regions musk ox inhabit,” Adams wrote.

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