Iditarod ‘made the right call,’ Seavey says of penalty for insufficient moose-gutting

a musher talks to another man outside
Musher Dallas Seavey talks to Iditarod Insider reporter Bruce Lee at the Cripple checkpoint during the Iditarod Trail Sled Dog Race on Thursday, March 7, 2024. (Casey Grove/Alaska Public Media)

CRIPPLE – Dallas Seavey was the first Iditarod musher to arrive here, only to learn he would be penalized for failing to sufficiently gut a moose he shot earlier in the race.

“You know, the hits just keep coming, and every day I just hope for a day of clean mushing,” Seavey said Thursday in this remote checkpoint, about 425 miles into the 1,000-mile race. “Just let us do what we do, which is travel with dogs down the trail, and it seems like every day something else comes up that’s another curveball, another challenge.”

One of Seavey’s next challenges will be overcoming a penalty of two hours added to his mandatory 24-hour rest. That’s something Seavey, a five-time Iditarod champion, did not address directly Thursday when asked by reporters, only saying, “I think the judges made the right call.”

Early Monday, Seavey’s team had come around a blind corner while going down a hill between the Skwentna and Finger Lake checkpoints when they started to pass by a moose on the trail. Then the moose attacked the dogs closest to Seavey’s sled, he said. Seavey shot and killed the moose, and he was obligated by race rules to gut it so the meat could be salvaged.

According to a press release from Iditarod Trail Sled Dog Race officials, Seavey spent about 10 minutes at the site of the moose encounter before traveling about 11 miles down the trail and camping.

One of Seavey’s dogs, Faloo, got the worst of the attack. She had a gash and looked “terrible” at first but was still perky, Seavey said. The dog’s condition seemed to deteriorate on the way, he said.

When he arrived at Finger Lake, Faloo was flown to Anchorage, where she underwent two surgeries, Seavey said.

Seavey got updates at checkpoints and on a messaging device. The initial prognosis was that Faloo had a 20% chance of survival, then 50%, he said.

“And then, next I heard, she was going home,” Seavey said. “She’s not out of the woods. Of course infection’s always a concern.”

an aerial view of a snowy checkpoint
An aerial view of the remote Cripple checkpoint in the Iditarod Trail Sled Dog Race on Thursday, March 7, 2024. (Casey Grove/Alaska Public Media)

According to the Iditarod, a three-person panel looked into the moose-shooting incident and determined “the animal was not sufficiently gutted by the musher.”

RELATED: Iditarod penalizes Dallas Seavey for ‘not sufficiently’ gutting moose he shot in defense of team

Seavey declined to answer questions about whether his concern for Faloo had anything to do with the amount of time he spent gutting the moose.

“I don’t want to have to go through this every single checkpoint along the way, right?” Seavey said. “We are going to focus on our dog team and run the race.”

In an earlier interview, Seavey told the Iditarod Insider that he had tunnel vision after shooting the moose and “just made terrible, shocked decisions, I guess, one after the next.” He said he became focused on getting Faloo to Finger Lake as quickly as possible, and it didn’t occur to him that the prior checkpoint, Skwentna, was closer — a move PETA is criticizing.

He said, at the time, he worried that he’d be going head-on into other teams if he went backward, and he said he also remembers feeling worried about a team coming around the corner and colliding with them.

“Ten minutes of shocked brain and we pretty much screwed ourselves,” he told the Insider, the race’s media arm. “I feel absolutely terrible.”

He said he wanted to apologize to his dogs, his fans and his competitors.

A two-hour penalty can make a big difference in the Iditarod. Last year, just over an hour separated first and second place. And in 2022, Seavey placed second, crossing the finish line an hour and eight minutes after that year’s winner, Brent Sass.

a musher and some gold
Race Judge Dan Carter presents musher Dallas Seavey with the Dorothy G. Page Halfway Award, which includes a trophy and $3,000 worth of gold nuggets, at the Cripple checkpoint during the Iditarod Trail Sled Dog Race on Thursday, March 7, 2024. (Casey Grove/Alaska Public Media)

For getting into Cripple first on Wednesday, Seavey had won the Dorothy G. Page Award. The award comes with a trophy and $3,000 worth of gold nuggets.

“This is kind of the gold country in Alaska,” Seavey said after the award presentation. “So it’s so cool that it’s a tradition the Iditarod has kept up and remembering and commemorating the history of the trail, with the gold rushes, but also more importantly the sled dogs that really allowed us to travel and roam Alaska.”

After a 27-hour stop in Cripple, Seavey and his 15 dogs raced out of the checkpoint at 11:13 p.m. Thursday, according to the race tracker.

a portrait of a man outside

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

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