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Canada's Species   Mammals


Ovibos moschatus

Photo:Canadian Museum of Nature
Muskox. Photo:Canadian Museum of Nature

The muskox is one of Canada's oldest mammals; its ancestors roamed the Asiatic steppes and the refugium of Beringia along with the mastodon, mammoth, and woolly rhinoceros. This long history of habitation of inhospitable environments has made the muskox well adapted to the Canadian arctic. The image of a band of muskox standing in an outward-facing circle, giving protection to calves or providing each other with warmth, long guard hairs blowing in the harsh wind, is symbolic of the desolation of their tundra home. Wolves and grizzlies are occasional predators of muskox, but the defensive circle is generally effective; in most cases, it is lone senile bulls who fall prey too carnivores. In summer, muskox feed upon sedges, rushes, grasses and forbs, while the winter diet is made up primarily of browse such as Labrador tea, crowberry, ground birch and willow.

Map of Muskox in Canada
Distribution of Muskox in Canada

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