After a breakfast of hot rolls heated in the cottage’s small but very effective oven, we headed off to Tannas and the Musk Ox Centre. We bought tickets and met our guide at the Fishing Centre, before being escorted to the Musk Ox enclosure in a car chain. Understandably it’s not signposted from the road so as to prevent ill informed visitors from trying to get into the enclosure, and ending up a bit worse for wear.
Musk Ox were hunted to extinction in Northern Europe 40 thousand years ago, but re-introduced to Dovrefjell in Norway from Greenland in 1869. In 1971, five Musk Ox emigrated voluntarily to Sweden and have stayed in this border region of Harjedalen ever since. In the Winter they move to high mountain areas where their short legs find it easier to move about in snow that isn’t as deep as it is in the valleys. Mental note – I need to move to the mountains.
Sweden’s Musk Ox Centre is the largest Musk Ox enclosure in the world and provides a natural, albeit slightly restricted habitat for them. In the 1980’s their numbers started to dwindle from a peak of 34, because they were frightened into not reproducing by the sheer number of people in noisy helicopters and snow-mobiles whizzing back and forth to see them. Today their habitat is protected, although the Swedish government refuses to recognise them as a Swedish animal, and so won’t provide any funding. The centre relies on tourism and local sponsors.
After being taken up a two storey observation tower to survey the musk ox territory, we were instructed not to make any loud noises or sudden movements, and led on to a viewing platform in the enclosure. We were priveleged to see a two month old female calf, and she in turn seemed to relish having an audience – playing with the adults, or just rolling around in the pen looking adorable. Rich nicknamed her Fifi.
They really do look primeval, and their bellow sounds like something out of Jurassic Park – you could feel it in your bones! Fortunately they didn’t seem to mind being watched, probably because tourist group sizes are always small, and quiet. Everyone just gazed in awe at these wonderful creatures. As the oxen wandered back towards Funasfjallen we were led into a small exhibition, before going on our way just after 1pm.
Being so close to the Norwegian border it seemed daft not to then visit the Rogen Nature Reserve. The park covers 500 square kilometres, and the entrance road is sited just a few hundred metres from Tannas. The guidebook said that it wold then be 10 miles down a gravel track, but it turned out to be closer to 15. Swedish miles are obviously longer.
With Rich feeling a bit weary after yesterday’s exertions, and the reserve being very swampy, we followed the Summer track to Rogenstugen for an hour and a half before seeking refuge from the mozzies. It turns out that natural mosquito repellents just don’t cut it when walking through swampland. Fortunately we’d also packed anti-histamine cream. The reserve is undoubtedly a stunning landscape though and we’d definitely come back early in the Spring or later in the Autumn to see it at its best, without getting bled dry.