At the recent 2013 International Green Week (a huge food festival)  in Berlin, one of the surprise hits was muskox sausage.

Muskox sausage at the International Green Festival. Photo from Norsk Landbruksrådgiving.

Muskox sausage at the International Green Festival. Photo from an article about the event by Norsk Landbruksrådgiving.

According to an Aftenposten news report, the food display from Trøndelag was particularly busy because of the exotic sausage. Germans love their sausage, so we perhaps shouldn’t be surprised at the interest. Supposedly, it tastes like a mix of sheep, horse, and wild game.

The sausages were made by Kongsvold fjeldstue in Dovrefjell. As I’ve mentioned before, Dovrefjell is the home of the famous Norwegian reintroduced muskox herd. And it’s from this herd that they get the meat for their muskox sausages, paté, and carpaccio. Animals that have decided to take up residence near the train tracks or those that keep wandering into farmer’s fields are culled. Kongsvold fjeldstue is the lucky recipient of the unlucky animals. The historic inn also offers muskox safaris to show off the living animals to visitors.

Musk ox core area as designated in the Forvaltningsplan for moskusstammen på Dovrefjell

Musk ox core area as designated in the Forvaltningsplan for moskusstammen på Dovrefjell

The culling raises some interesting questions about reintroductions and their later management. In this case, muskox are considered at home in the Dovre mountains as long as they stay within their designated boundaries. Dovre kommune has written a “Muskox Population Management Plan” that includes a designation of the “core habitat” — animals that stray outside of those boundaries either have to be herded back in or are killed. Part of this extensive management is due to the muskox’s precarious position as both a reintroduced species and a blacklisted invader, as my prior post noted. So the question becomes whether or not muskox is really reintroduced if it is so closely managed. Does reintroduction imply complete freedom for the animal to roam? Or can their be limits?

Whatever the answer, the muskox sausage business in Dovrefjell may be in trouble. The Norwegian Veterinary Institute has just this week released the findings from their investigation into the 2012 muskox deaths. It turns out that the muskox have gotten a bacterial infection (mykoplasma) from domestic sheep that graze in the area. This bacteria has never been reported in muskox before. The transmission mechanism appears to be salt licks that are put out for the free range sheep, but also used by the wild muskox.

This may turn into a conflict between farmers who own the sheep and businesses like Kongsvold fjeldstue that depend on the muskox tourism. I’ll have to keep an eye on it as it develops.