5-time Iditarod champion shoots dead, guts moose during the annual sled dog race

Five-time champion Dallas Seavey of Talkeetna, Alaska, wearing bib No. 7, is shown on March 2 in the streets of Anchorage during the ceremonial start of the Iditarod Trail Sled Dog Race across Alaska. (Mark Thiessen/The Associated Press)

Race rules state that Iditarod mushers must gut, report any defensive killings of large animals

A veteran musher had to kill a moose after it injured his dog shortly after the start of this year’s Iditarod, race officials said Monday.

Dallas Seavey informed the officials with the Iditarod Trail Sled Dog Race early Monday morning that he was forced to shoot the moose with a handgun in self-defence.

This came “after the moose became entangled with the dogs and the musher,” a statement from the race said.

Seavey, who is tied for the most Iditarod wins ever at five, said he urged officials to get the moose off the trail.

“It fell on my sled, it was sprawled on the trail,” Seavey told an Iditarod Insider television crew. “I gutted it the best I could, but it was ugly.”

This year’s race started Sunday afternoon in Willow, Alaska, about 121 kilometres north of Anchorage. Seavey encountered the moose just before 2 a.m. local time on Monday, 22 kilometres outside the race checkpoint in Skwentna, en route to the next checkpoint 80 kilometres away in Finger Lake.

Dog injured in the incident

Seavey, who turned 37 on Monday, arrived in Finger Lake later in the day, where he dropped a dog that was injured in the moose encounter. The dog was flown to Anchorage, where it was being evaluated by a veterinarian.

Alaska State Troopers were informed of the dead moose, and race officials said every effort was being made to salvage the meat.

Race rules state that if a big game animal like a moose, caribou or buffalo is killed in defence of life or property, the musher must gut the animal and report it to race officials at the next checkpoint. Mushers who follow must help gut the animal when possible, the rules states.

New race marshal Warren Palfrey said he would continue to gather information about the encounter as it pertains to the rules, according to the Iditarod statement.

Musher Paige Drobny confirmed to race officials the moose was dead and in the middle of the trial when she arrived in Finger Lake on Monday.

“Yeah, like my team went up and over it, like it’s that ‘in the middle of the trail,”‘ she said.

Seavey wasn’t the first musher to encounter a moose along that stretch of the race.

Legendary champ confronted moose in 1985

Race leader Jessie Holmes, who is a cast member of the National Geographic reality TV show about life in rural Alaska called Life Below Zero, had his encounter between those two checkpoints, but it’s not clear if it was the same moose.

“I had to punch a moose in the nose out there,” he told a camera crew, but didn’t offer other details.

Seavey is not the first musher to have to kill a moose during an Iditarod. In 1985, the late Susan Butcher was leading the race when she used her axe and a parka to fend off a moose, but it killed two of her dogs and injured 13 others. Another musher came along and killed the moose.

Butcher, who died from leukemia in 2006 at age 51, had to quit that race but went on to win four Iditarods.

The 1,609-kilometre race across Alaska will end sometime next week when the winning musher comes off the Bering Sea ice and crosses under the burled arch finish line in Nome.

Related stories from around the North: 

Norway: Norway ambassador visits Alaska to talk climate, Russia and, yes, Norwegian dog mushing success, Alaska Public Media

United States: ‘A little scary’: Alaska’s Iditarod to begin with smallest field ever, The Associated Press

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