Musk ox attacks and injures pet dog
By Megan Gannon
Last week a musk ox gored Shawn Pomrenke’s 10-year-old Malamute named Kona outside of his family’s man camp near the Old Glacier Creek Road.
Pomrenke told the Nugget that Kona had been outside early Friday morning and returned with a laceration about 10 inches wide on her side. Luckily, the Nome Animal House was holding a vet clinic that week, with Nome’s itinerant veterinarian Dr. Gil Van Sciver in town, so Kona could be treated right away.
“If there wasn’t a vet there, most likely she probably wouldn’t have made it,” Pomrenke said on Monday night. “I’m just glad that she’s doing okay. She’s been with me for 10 years so she’s part of my family.”
Veterinarian Van Sciver said the animal was fairly stable when he saw her around 7 a.m that morning. But after the wound on her right side was sutured, the dog was having trouble breathing. An X-ray revealed she had a collapsed lung on the opposite side of her chest.
“We knew it was going to be an intensive care situation, and we can’t offer that here,” Van Sciver said.
Pomrenke had been in Anchorage at the time of the incident, and Kona was sent there to receive further care.
“I’m giving her antibiotics and pain medication, she’s got two drainage tubes in the wound—those come out in a couple days—but she is surprisingly moving around pretty good,” he said.
This is the second time Kona has survived a musk ox goring, Pomrenke said. The first incident occurred at the base of Anvil Mountain about seven years ago.
Alicia Carson, an assistant area biologist for the Alaska Department of Fish and Game, said the Nome office did not receive a report about this latest attack.
“We often hear about encounters where dogs are involved,” Carson said, adding that musk ox “are likely to act defensively when provoked or startled by dogs.” The department recommends that owners always keep their dogs under control, either with a leash or voice control, while in musk ox country. ADF&G also says dog should only be left unattended while they’re in a secure freestanding enclosure.
In past years, musk oxen have entered sled dog yards in Nome and have attacked, injured and killed numerous sled dogs on the chain.
Van Sciver has the impression that conflicts between dogs and musk ox are on the rise in Nome.
“I know that I’ve dealt with a musk ox attack every time I’ve been in town since late spring,” Sciver said. “This year there’s no less than eight to 10 that I know of. My assessment is that there’s more now than there were three or four years ago.”
Carson said the department is available to respond to situations involving musk ox that pose a threat to public safety.
ADF&G staff can be notified of such instances Monday through Friday between 8 a.m. and 5 p.m. at (907)-443-2271. The Nome Police Department can also be contacted at any time.
“Each situation is evaluated independently, and the department has several options at its disposal to remove a musk ox if such action is necessary and can be done safely,” Carson said. “As always, the public should give musk ox plenty of space, they are likely to become agitated and respond defensively if approached, as was likely the case in this instance.”