Muskoxen are completely covered with an under layer of short fine wool of exceptional warmth (qiviut), except for the horns, hooves, lips and nose. The longer outer coat of shaggy hair covering the animal is about a half-metre long and often hangs almost to the ground. It gives the muskox its characteristic appearance. Rounded hooves with sharp rims provide traction on ice and rocky surfaces.

The coat is generally dark brown or almost black. It is extremely shaggy on the shoulders and forms a distinct mane, especially noticeable on bulls. Behind the shoulders is a short white or creamy yellow "saddle". The lower legs have light brown to white "stockings". The muskox's inner wool, or ‘qiviut’, is of exceptional quality, with the weight and warmth of cashmere.

Muskoxen are very social animals. They live in loosely organized herds of about 15 animals, or sometimes larger. 


Muskoxen crossed into Northern America about 90,000 years ago when the Bering Strait was dry land. When the last glacier covered North America, muskoxen survived in ice-free areas or ‘glacial refugia’ in the northern Arctic islands and Greenland. As the ice retreated, muskox spread throughout northern Canada and Greenland before moving westward into Alaska.

Today, muskoxen in the Northwest Territories (NWT) are found on Banks, Eglinton, Melville and Victoria Islands and on the mainland from the Arctic coast southwest to Artillery Lake.

Muskoxen Distribution by Ecoregion Map - Northwest Territories
Muskoxen Distribution by Ecoregion Map - Northwest Territories


Muskoxen in the NWT are managed by controlling the hunting season for resident and non-resident hunters. They are hunted under quota on Melville Island, Banks Island, and four areas on the mainland. 

Hunting season for muskox on Melville and Victoria Islands is open from August 15th to March 31st. Hunting season on Banks Island is open from August 15th to April 30th.

Muskox tags are available to residents through an annual draw. Applications for draw are available after April 1st from local Environment and Climate Change offices, and must be postmarked before May 15th to be eligible. The draw is held each year before June 1st. 

Tags are not awarded to anyone who received a muskox tag in any of the previous four seasons.