A rookie sled dog team out on a training run of the Iditarod Trail was attacked by a moose on February 3, 2022. Bridget Watkins, who was the musher or the driver of the dogsled, said that the moose charged and then stomped on her dog team for almost an hour, seriously injuring four, before a friend killed it with a high-powered rifle.
Watkins was training for the annual long-distance Iditarod Trail Sled Dog Race in Anchorage, Alaska, to be held on March 5, 2022. The course covers a distance of 1,000 miles from Southcentral Alaska to the town of Nome.
Watkins described her ordeal a day after the incident on her social media accounts as “the most horrific past 24 hours of my life.” It happened on the Salcha River trail system near Fairbanks while they were on a 52-mile training run.
She said that the moose suddenly charged at them and then trampled on her dogs. She tried to stop the animal by firing her gun into it, but after emptying the cartridge, the moose still did not stop and tried charging at her.
Watkins was able to take refuge on a snowmobile that was driven by her friend, who was trailing behind the team. She managed to free six of the dogs that were tethered to the sled but failed to free the others because the moose commenced trampling again on the dogs.
It went on for an hour until help from her friends arrived, with one shooting the moose dead with a rifle.
Four of the injured dogs were taken to the veterinarian and are now recovering, with one suffering a major head injury and another a broken leg. The other dogs suffered cuts and puncture wounds. Watkins is now back training with her other dogs.
Moose attacks are common in Alaska, more frequent than bear attacks, and they notoriously dislike dogs. The males are more aggressive during the mating season, and the females usually attack to protect their calves.
Watkin’s advice to mushers braving the trails: “Carry a bigger gun.”
Several Sponsors Ended Association With Iditarod
In related news, companies such as Alaska Airlines, Chrysler, ExxonMobil, and Wells Fargo have ended their financial support for the Iditarod Trail Sled Dog Race. This comes after People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA) weighing in on the criticism of the race for its cruelty to dogs.
The companies did not specifically give the reason for the drop, but PETA supporters have been picketing and protesting at times outside some of the companies’ headquarters.
The iconic Iditarod Trail Sled Dog Race is one of Alaska’s major winter events and PETA has highlighted the dangers the dogs experience.
On their website, they said that dog deaths are considered normal in the event of a number of dogs dying from asphyxiation, heart attacks, lung damage, vehicular accidents, and various injuries.
Dogs also suffer from extreme exhaustion running 1,000 miles in less than two weeks with minimal rest during the entire race. This is on top of the extreme weather with snowstorms and subzero temperatures wreaking havoc on the dog’s physical well-being.
There are also instances when breeders cull some of the dogs used for the race if they are deemed to be not fast enough or fail to meet certain physical standards.