Iditarod musher Dallas Seavey shoots moose to protect his dogs, officials say

A man runs with a dog that has three legs down the street as his team prepares to run the Iditarod.
Dallas Seavey runs with Whopper toward the Iditarod ceremonial starting line on Saturday. (Adam Nicely/ Alaska Public Media)

Top 2024 Iditarod Trail Sled Dog Race contender Dallas Seavey shot and killed a moose to defend himself and his dog team early Monday about 100 miles into the 1,000-mile race, officials said.

Seavey’s team was about 14 miles past the Skwentna checkpoint when the moose “became entangled with the dogs and the musher on the trail,” according to a statement from the Iditarod. Seavey shot the moose in self-defense and notified race officials at about 1:45 a.m. Monday, the statement says.

When he arrived at the Finger Lake checkpoint at about 8 a.m. Seavey was forced to drop a dog that had been injured in the encounter with the moose, the statement says.

Seavey’s kennel identified the dog as Faloo. Race officials said the dog was flown to Anchorage and was in the care of veterinarians. She underwent surgery and was in critical condition, according to an online post Tuesday from the kennel.

Race rules allow Iditarod mushers to carry firearms for protection from large animals like moose, but they must stop to gut any big game animal they shoot so it can be salvaged. The rules also say that any mushers who come upon a fellow competitor in the process of gutting a game animal must stop and help, and they’re not allowed to pass until the musher who killed the animal has continued on the trail.

Seavey spoke about the early morning incident to the Iditarod Insider crew in Finger Lake.

“I gutted it the best I could, but it was ugly,” he said.

Race Marshal Warren Palfrey said in the statement that efforts were underway to salvage the moose meat.

Another Iditarod veteran, Jessie Holmes, had mushed through the same section of trail ahead of Seavey and told the Insider he had also seen an angry moose, possibly the same animal. He said it was on a technical and narrow section of trail. As he rounded a corner, he saw the moose lying in the middle of the trail. He said the front of his team ran by it, and then the moose started to get up.

“It started rearing up and going after the back dogs,” he said. “We’re all like 2 feet away from the moose.”

He said the moose kicked at him as he mushed by. He stepped back and punched it.

“I just punched it in the nose because that’s all I could think to do,” he said. “It stopped chasing us and stopped kicking at us and we just cruised right by. It all happened so damn fast. It was the scariest thing that ever happened to me on a dog team, really.”

Fellow race veteran Paige Drobny saw the moose up close after it was shot, and so did mushers behind her on the trail.

“It’s dead in the middle of the trail,” Drobny told the Insider when she pulled into Finger Lake. “Like my team went up and over it.”

Gabe Dunham’s dog team hit it, too.

“There happened to be a dead moose in the trail, that kind of flipped the sled,” she told the Insider. “I did laugh and think, ‘Man, even when they’re dead they’re still getting me.’” 

Bailey Vitello described it as “the experience of a lifetime.”

“I can’t say I’ve ever ran a 16-dog team over a moose, so that was kind of interesting,” he told the Insider. “It was an experience, you know, that’s what Iditarod is all about, is having experiences. And that was a cool one to say I did. So check that one off the bucket list — don’t know if I want to do it again, but it was cool.”

He said the moose carcass was around a corner, and he had to go over it because if he tried to stop, he worried his team would try to eat it.

Palfrey, the race marshal, said in the statement that he would continue to gather information about the incident.

By Tuesday morning, Seavey and his 15-dog team had continued down the trail and made it to Nikolai, at race mile 263, in fourth place.

Editor’s note: This story was updated Tuesday with additional information from Dallas Seavey’s kennel and from an Iditarod Insider interview with Jessie Holmes.

Casey Grove is host of Alaska News Nightly, a general assignment reporter and an editor at Alaska Public Media. Reach him at Read more about Casey here

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