Sunday, April 1, 2012

War among the ice: Musk oxen against wolves.

Război printre gheţuri: lupi contra boi moscaţi 
Over the frozen stretches of northern Canada and Greenland, Nature has directed the millennia one of the most spectacular and dramatic clash of the animal world. In a terribly harsh environment where only the strong survive, the duel between packs of wolves tireless arctic musk oxen and sheep dârjilor is a story of life and death that shows us once again the complexity and natural living world.

White death

One of the protagonists, the perfect predator in this conflict constantly, is beautiful Arctic wolf, Arctic wolf or white wolf, as it is known.

It was classified by experts as the Canis lupus arctos and is one of the most iconic of wolf subspecies usually gray wolf that lives in our country and the relatively large areas of Eurasia and North America.

As size is a medium sized wolf with approximately the same proportions and weight Carpathian wolf. There is a huge wolf subspecies, such as Siberian wolves (Canis lupus albus) and the MacKenzie River Valley (Canis lupus occidentalis), able to break even bison.

However, it is, undoubtedly, a powerful animal, looking for story, living in the cold and harsh living environment compared to all other subspecies of wolves. Its area of ​​distribution covers the extreme northern tundra of Canada's arctic islands, northeastern Alaska and northern Greenland. It never falls below 70 degrees latitude, being faithful to their land for hunting and perfectly adapted to harsh living conditions in the far north.

Based on osteological evidence, researchers argue that owns these lands continuously over 2 million years. Compared with the rest of subspecies of wolf, arctic wolf is the least endangered by human actions. Environment has taken its very life (so far) away from the hunters, and human activities that destroy so many animal habitats. Land where the kingdom of this gorgeous white wolf is an isolated and harsh.
Few researchers dare to venture here, during the long and dark Arctic winter, when cold at night and 24 hours of 24 master here. Even the Inuit live south of the kingdom of white wolves. For these reasons, many details of life during the year white wolves are still unknown even today.Hardliners of the ice wolves are some real winners, like survivors by definition. They are able to withstand extreme frosts, are doing in darkness for 5 months a year and can withstand starvation for several weeks. They live in small groups from one pair to a pack of more than 20 individuals. Are among subspecies of wolves that live mostly in small families, consisting of one male and one female, both senior and their offspring.
Wolves are usually solitary white adolescents and young males who roam the expanses in search of unoccupied territory and a female available.Because of Arctic permafrost, very difficult to dig to make burrows, caves used arctic wolves, clusters of rocks or uneven soil as permanent burrows or occasional shelter. After a gestation period of between 63-75 days (depending on temperature and amount of food available for wolf mother), the female gives birth, usually, to 2-3 chicken, although in years with abundant prey, there were couples who managed to rise to 12 puppies.

Northern wolves born baby less than their gray counterparts at lower latitudes because of lack of Arctic prey.
Lupuşorii world appear completely helpless, blind and deaf, weighing on average between 300-500 grams. Unlike parents immaculate white coat, babies have a silver gray color. Until they leave the shelter, are totally dependent on their mother. At the age of 3 weeks start to explore the world outside the burrow.

Shaggy irritable

Musk ox, OVIBOS moscatus, known as specialists, is the northernmost member of the family of wild bovine. Live in tundras of North America, Greenland and Siberia, as introduced by humans and in Lapland. His father appeared in North America 200,000 years ago during the Pleistocene.

It is an ancient mammal, species to be contemporary, historical scale, the mammoths, woolly rhinos, cave bears, lions and European Americans. We can rightly say that musk oxen are successful survivors of the last ice age megafauna and worthy representatives of the former current. From a distance, look like typical cattle, buffalo direct relatives, zimbrii, hole, Yaks and other bovine species. Not true!

Despite their name of oxen, every name on their size, these herbivores are related more with wild goats and cattle muflonii than "classic". However, are somewhat intermediate species, linking goats and sheep, on the one hand, and cattle, on the other.

Do not touch the colossal dimensions of the buffalo or bison, but are not some small herbivores. Males, larger and more impressive than females, reaching about 120 cm tall at the withers, with an average weight of 285 kg, although individuals were shot and reached 400 kg.

Those who escape the raids wolves have a lifespan of 12-20 years.
Both sexes have horns, which presents a curious, like African wild buffalo horns form. Their image caractersitică, unmistakable among herbivores, due to extremely thick fur and long, without which it could survive the terrible Arctic blizzards.

The color is a brown-black-gray and the flanks and belly fur is so long that it touches the ground. The coat is not only a warm coat against the bitter cold, but often act as a final assault armor to the swarms of mosquitoes in the short Arctic summer or wolf bites. Experts estimated that currently between 80,000 to 125,000 live musk oxen. A stable population, if not speeding hunting.

The only areas where musk oxen were reintroduced successfully are Taimîr peninsula in Siberia and Lapland. (Bulgarians tried to introduce the Stara Planina mountains, in late 1970. But next summer introduction, musk oxen died, unable to adapt to high temperatures.)

In summer, grazing in wetlands and river valleys and climb to higher altitudes in winter to avoid deep snow. In addition to arctic wolves, which are their natural enemies par excellence, musk oxen May accidentally fall victim grizzly and the polar bears.
They live in herds where, in summer, reaching 80 copies, and winter is split into smaller groups of 8-20 copies. The mating type male lead fierce battles for the conquest of the status of head of sheep and unlimited access to females.

Like all wolves, and the Arctic gather in packs when you start looking for larger prey, namely reindeer and musk oxen. When the pups are small, wolves are not likely injury or injuries that may occur in type hunting musk oxen.

Therefore, feeding mainly with rabbits and foxes Arctic polar partridges, lemmings, seals or table scraps left from polar bears. Because of the rarity of prey, wolves whites largest hunting territories among all wild canidele, approximately 2,600 square kilometers.

There are some speed hunters, but persistence, their courage and stamina are unparalleled. If successful hunting, wolves can ingurgitate to 9 pounds of meat at one meal. If they put a piece of flesh is regurgitated to feed them when parents return to burrows.

When seen a herd of musk oxen, show life and death in the cold Arctic, will enter the final stage.
Invariably, wolves would surround the herd and will simulate fakes, until a later herbivores panic and start running in a desperate attempt to save.

That's when the wolves long-awaited experience. Musk oxen are most vulnerable when running.
Lowest chance of success when wolves are sheep have calves that can not keep up with adults, because then the musk oxen use a different defense tactics, tailored to the situation: males are placed in a circle with their heads oriented outward .

In the middle circle sutn housed calves and females. No wolf will not be able to break through the barrier redoubtable angry bulls horns high.
But, as sheep can not stay in place indefinitely, grouped in formation of defense, because herbivores need to go to graze, the defense will break by itself, sooner or later, depending on the state of hunger.

Then, old wolves give final attack signal. Musk oxen have resistance wolves, and the old, sick, feeble or young specimens will remain invariant after flock launched furious gallop.

Like some perfect tacticians, wolves isolate the most vulnerable victims of the rest of the flock. The most experienced wolf grabs the bot ox and immobilizes them so have time remaining pack members and positioned to move the shield of fur and torn abdomen.

Once the bull was shot down, pack leader unclenches its jaws on the victim's nose and proceeds to the table with his subordinates. A life has just passed, coloring in red ice, while others grow and develop life in perfect balance. Laws of nature have been observed without blemish. Life has given life and death was only a transient presence, but so necessary ...

1 comment:

  1. Great post and beautiful photos ! The arctic wolf is such a gorgeous creature. Certainly one of my favorite animals of the tundra.