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Alex Trebek, the longtime Jeopardy! host who died in November 2020 after a battle with pancreatic cancer, supported the Musk Ox Farm for more than three decades. 

The Palmer-based farm is a nonprofit dedicated to the domestication of muskox. It harvests qiviut, an ultra-fine wool, from the muskox and runs farm tours.

In the late 1980s, the farm’s former executive director contacted Trebek after learning the game show host’s favorite animal was the muskox. A few months later, Trebek called the farm and the relationship was born. 

Trebek visited on several occasions. His foundation made financial donations to the farm, and for over 30 years he personally signed every adoption certificate for the nonprofit’s Friends of the Musk Ox program. His involvement was so consistent the staff referred to him as the “herd godfather.” 

The nonprofit’s current executive director, Mark Austin, says multiple celebrities have visited the farm over his tenure, but Trebek’s contributions were far and away the most significant. Austin remembers him as an easygoing, approachable guy who shared some quiet, private moments with the shaggy creatures when he visited. 

Muskox surround and protect young, old, and other vulnerable members of the herd when faced with a threat. Austin says it was that practice that made Trebek fall in love with the animals. “It was protecting their own and that concept of family that really, really moved Alex,” he says.

Author

Alexander Deedy is the assistant editor and digital content manager for Alaska magazine.

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