Musk oxen seen near Bethel on the Kuskokwim River

by Angela Denning-Barnes on May 9, 2013

Lucille Jacob, age 4, in front of the musk ox, May 8. Photo by Chris Jacob

Lucille Jacob, age 4, in front of the musk oxen, May 8. Photo by Chris Jacob

When Chris Jacob went to check his white fish net, it was the normal state of affairs. He drove his snow machine a short distance on the Kuskokwim River with his 4-year-old grand daughter along for the ride.

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They arrived at the set net, about a mile upriver of Bethel, in an area known as Joe Pete’s. His net wasn’t catching much so Jacob decided to pull it out. Not long afterwards, he heard some birds flying around and started to look for them. Migratory birds are just starting to show up in the region and Jacob wanted to show them to his grand daughter.

“And in the distance I see something dark, like in a line, moving down the river,” Jacob says.

Jacob watched the dark line for awhile. He’s an experienced subsistence hunter and fishermen but didn’t recognize what it was. He told his grand daughter, who he sometimes calls daughter, “that’s not normal.”

“So, I decided to go check,” Jacob says. “I told my daughter, ‘Jump on the snow machine. Let’s go.’ And went over there and got close enough where. . .they were musk ox, I could see musk ox. Holy cow.”

Jacob says there were about 20 of them. It was hard to tell because they were huddled in a circle with young ones in the middle.

Jacob says seeing them was unexpected but he was perhaps most excited that his grand daughter, Lucille, was with him for the surprise.

“I looked at my daughter and said, “’Baby, look. Musk ox.’ I went closer, we got close, and just watched them. She was really excited,” says Jacob.

Jacob grew up in Bethel but had never seen musk oxen in the area, only out west, closer to the coast.

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