Tuesday, May 14, 2013

Animals of the Arctic

Traverse City, which is located just south of the 45th Parallel, is an unlikely place to find polar bears or muskoxen. It came as a bit of a surprise, then, when a trip to the Dennos Museum Center revealed both of these amazing creatures — preserved as fantastic taxidermy mounts! The muskox and polar bear stand guard to the museum's superb collection of contemporary Inuit art, and represent two animals that are important to the ecosystems and cultures of the Arctic Circle.

Both of these mounts are of excellent, lifelike quality. Also important is how incredibly accessible they are — I've never before gotten so close to a polar bear mount, as they always seem to be behind glass, and with the exception of the trophy mounts at a certain hunting and fishing superstore in Dundee, this is the first time I've seen a muskox, dead or alive. What really struck me was how small the muskox was. I was expecting an animal the size of a cow or an American Bison, but this muskox (likely a female), without its platform, wouldn't have come up past Steph's shoulder. (For reference, Steph is five feet tall.)

Having the opportunity to see both of these animals up-close was really neat. The polar bear's claws were ridiculously big and sharp; the muskox's horns had the texture of petrified tree bark.

It's always a risk to have such soft-looking taxidermy within reach, and it was mighty hard to resist petting the muskox's beautiful, woolly fur. Thankfully, there was an interpretive sign that explained why it's not a good idea to touch taxidermy mounts:

click for larger view

Without any glass restricting my view of the mounts, it was nice to be able to take some intimate portraits.

Visit Animal Diversity Web to learn more about polar bears and muskoxen!

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