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Monitoring - Wildlife

Banks Island Muskoxen Monitoring

Department of Resources, Wildlife and Economic Development

Rationale

A herd of muskoxen on Banks Island.
A herd of muskoxen on Banks Island.
© Parks Canada

The number of muskoxen on Banks Island has changed dramatically from the 1950s to the present. The population grew from hundreds of muskoxen in the 1950s to 3,800 in 1972 and then to 64,608 by 1994. The most recent population estimate, conducted in 2001, put the population at 68,788 non-calf muskoxen. Information about the size, characteristics, habitat use, movements and health of the muskoxen population is important for managing muskoxen on Banks Island and understanding the Banks Island ecosystem. The information is also important to ensure that the commercial harvest of muskoxen on Banks Island is sustainable. This project is led by the Government of the Northwest Territories, Department of Resources, Wildlife and Economic Development and is carried out under the direction of the draft Co-management Plan for Caribou, Muskox, Arctic Wolves, Snow Geese, and Small Herbivores on Banks Island. Parks Canada is a partner in this project, contributing funds and other resources.

Objectives

  • To estimate the number of non-calf and calf muskoxen on Banks Island.
  • To determine the recruitment of muskoxen calves and the productivity of muskoxen in the Egg, Masik and Thomsen river areas.
  • To assess late winter snow conditions in high-density muskoxen areas.
  • To determine body condition of muskoxen.
  • To determine the presence and abundance of parasites and diseases in muskoxen.

Methods and Information Collected

  • All areas of Banks Island are surveyed, including Aulavik National Park.
  • Muskoxen are counted from a fixed-wing aircraft.
  • Age and sex classification of muskoxen is conducted in their high-density summer ranges. These ranges are in the vicinity of the Egg, Masik, Thomsen and Muskox rivers.
  • Classification surveys are conducted by using a helicopter to position surveyors near groups of muskoxen. Muskoxen are then observed with spotting scopes or binoculars and are classified by age and sex. Attempts are made to classify a minimum of 500 muskoxen, or 30 groups of muskoxen, in each area that is surveyed.
  • Productivity is estimated by counting the number of calves present per 100 2-year-old or older females.
  • Recruitment of calves is determined by counting the number of yearlings present per 100 3-year-old or older females.
  • Urine, snow urine and fecal samples from muskoxen are collected in low and high muskoxen density areas and analysed to determine animal body condition.
  • Incidental observations of wolves are recorded.
  • Fecal and fourth stomach samples are collected to determine infection of muskoxen by parasites.
  • Data collected during commercial muskoxen harvests is being analysed to look at the change in pregnancy rates, body condition and size.

Results

  • Banks Island was surveyed from July 7 to15, 2001 using a strip transect survey flown at 20% coverage. The population is estimated at 68,788 non-calf adults.
  • A composition survey was completed on July 22 to 23, 2001. The results show 41 calves per 100 2-year-old or older cows.

Years of Data

  • The first whole-island population survey of muskoxen took place in 1972, and has been conducted every 3-4 years since 1982.
  • Classification surveys were conducted in the Thomsen River area during the 1980s and from 1999 to 2000.
  • Winter range conditions were monitored on Banks Island from 1993 to 1999.
  • Muskoxen late winter body condition was assessed from 1993 to 2001.
  • Levels of different parasite species have been assessed since 1999.

Partners

  • Government of the Northwest Territories, Department of Resources, Wildlife and Economic Development (project lead)

Funding

  • Government of the Northwest Territories
    Parks Canada

Data Location

  • Department of Resources, Wildlife and Economic Development, Inuvik
Population estimates of muskoxen on Banks Island, 1972-2001. Source: Government of the Northwest Territories, Department of Resources, Wildlife and Economic Development.
Population estimates of muskoxen on Banks Island, 1972-2001. Source: Government of the Northwest Territories, Department of Resources, Wildlife and Economic Development.

Contacts

John Nagy
Supervisor of Wildlife Management
Government of the Northwest Territories
Department of Resources, Wildlife and Economic Development
Bag Service #1
Inuvik NT X0E 0T0
Phone: (867) 777-7305
Fax. (867) 777-7321
John_Nagy@gov.nt.ca