Muskox Safety

group of muskox standing on the tundra
When a group of muskoxen forms a defensive line, it's time to give them some space.

NPS Photo


Muskoxen are some of the easiest large animals to see in Cape Krusenstern National Monument since they are slow-moving grazers that are found in groups on open tundra. Muskoxen are not normally aggressive, but they are still wild animals, and can pose a threat to humans and especially dogs. These basic precautions will help keep you safe if you do encounter a muskox.

Staying Safe around Muskoxen

  • Respect a muskox’s space. Muskoxen are surprisingly tolerant of people and it’s possible to get quite close to one, but that doesn’t mean it’s a good idea. Always stay at least 150 feet from a muskox.
  • As with any wild animal, don’t approach a female with a calf. Even the normally docile muskox will fiercely protect their young. You can learn how to identify the different age and sexes of muskoxen at the Alaska Department of Fish and Game website.
  • Male muskoxen are more aggressive during the mating season, from August to October. Take special care to avoid a bull in rut.
  • When they are agitated or feel threatened, muskox will charge, so pay attention to their body language. If a muskox stops what it is doing, it has noticed you. When they feel threatened, a muskox group will form a defensive line facing you, and sway their heads back and forth. If you observe this behavior, it’s time to stage a retreat.
  • If you are charged by a muskox, RUN. Never stand your ground against a charging muskox.
  • Keep your dogs under control if a muskox is near. Wolves are the muskox’s natural predators, and they see dogs as a similar threat. An agitated muskox can easily injure or kill a dog, so make sure your dogs are on a leash or in a pen if muskoxen are around.

If you are injured or even just approached by a muskox, report it to the park rangers in Kotzebue. Your information can improve safety for future visitors and local hunters.

To learn more about muskoxen and muskox safety, as well as a muskox safety coloring page for children, visit the Alaska Department of Fish and Game’s website.


Last updated: November 5, 2018

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