Hopes were dashed yesterday when we learned that Brutus has indeed died. Weather station staff Rai LeCotey and André Bouchard offered to investigate the site for us and we readily agreed. Doing so would result in a timely assessment of what may have happened. Rai and André traveled by snowmobile to the GPS co-ordinates we had given them, and they did an excellent job of finding Brutus and documenting what they saw. The search was initially hampered with much snow that had fallen in recent weeks and then strong winds that followed. No tracks were visible in the area. The site of the GPS co-ordinates appeared barren but then the investigators noticed a tuft of fur sticking out of the snow. It was Brutus’ tagged ear. As they cleared the snow away, they could clearly see a large hole in Brutus’ left side. No blood was on the fur, no signs of scavenging, just the gaping hole in his side, consistent with being gored by a muskox. Note in one of the pictures how Brutus is not curled up; rather his legs are extended. It is likely that Brutus had one of his organs punctured in an encounter and died quickly. There was a thin layer of ice underneath Brutus when he was lifted from the site. It’s difficult to say for certain from pictures, but the yellowish color suggests urine. Bile fluid from a punctured gall bladder next to the liver could also be there if there was some movement before his death because the puncture wound is on top. Brutus’ remains were brought back to the weather station and will remain frozen until Brutus can be transported to Yellowknife for a necropsy.
It is sad to see any life end, but it certainly affects us more when we get to know an individual. Such was the case with Brutus, as many of us found ourselves rooting for him to be a successful hunter and provide for himself and his pack in a challenging environment. However, at the same time we have to respect the muskoxen. They don’t want to be eaten any more than we do, so they put up a fight, and a good fight they often do. Unfortunately for Brutus, this time he got in the way of a horn and paid the price. While we may be saddened by Brutus’ death, celebrate that we still have wilderness and that predator-prey dynamics, the evolutionary game of eat-or-be-eaten, still continues.
Please be advised, pictures may be disturbing to some.