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The Cycle of Life / Nunavut Muskox - A Division of the Nunavut Development Corporation

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The Cycle of Life

Like all animals, muskox instinctively strive to reproduce to ensure the survival of the species.

With the onset of the rutting (mating) season, the bulls gear up to prove their superiority and dominance. Bulls tend to strut for most of the year, but at the height of the rut these threats give way to noisy and dramatic battles with bulls charging each other. Leaping off the ground, they charge toward each other at full speed and clash heads together. The weaker contender is usually defeated before much damage is done.

In late spring and summer the herds consist of mixed ages and genders. Once the dominant bull establishes his position, the herds change to harem-like groups composed of one adult bull with several cows, calves and pre-adult bulls. Defeated bulls either group together or become solitary, and are not accepted back into the herd until the breeding season is over. Rutting reaches its peak in late summer and courtship continues through September.

Cows begin mating at about age four. The gestation period is eight to nine months with most calves being born between April and mid-May. Muskox calves can stand upright and suckle within a few minutes after birth. For the first few weeks, they remain close to their mothers. They are born with short woolly coats, which begin shedding in mid-summer. By September, the small muskox is a miniature replica of the adults with two coats of fur - an outer layer of guard hair and an insulating under layer of qiviut.

As the calf grows, it moves around the herd's feeding area and plays with other young animals. At any sign of danger, a calf will rush to its mother and sometimes hide completely under her long flowing hair. The calf may stay with its mother well into its first year. In the wild, cows may only breed in alternate years and the yearling may continue to nurse until it is 15 to 18 months old.

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Page Last Updated: October 25, 2013 Copyright 2006 Nunavut Development Corporation
Interesting FactsDescriptionSurvivalThe Cycle of LifeCanadian Populations