Snowmachiner collides with Iditarod dog team

a man with two dogs
Iditarod Trail Sled Dog Race musher Bailey Vitello, during his rookie run in the 2023 Iditarod. (Courtesy Bailey Vitello)

A snowmachiner collided with a team competing in the Iditarod Trail Sled Dog Race and then fled the scene, according to Alaska State Troopers.

Troopers said in an online dispatch Wednesday morning that the collision happened between the checkpoints of Koyuk and Elim, more than three-quarters of the way into the thousand-mile race. The collision was reported to troopers at about 7:30 p.m. Tuesday.

Iditarod officials said in a statement that the musher involved was Bailey Vitello of New Hampshire. Vitello was not injured and no dogs died. Troopers initially said that at least one dog was injured. But the later Iditarod statement said the snowmachine “made contact” with one of Vitello’s dogs but the dog is not injured and is still racing.

A Facebook post from Vitello’s team describes the incident.

“When the team was running a straightaway stretch in broad daylight a snowmobile came down the trail recklessly driving and clipped one of the dogs on the team,” it says. “Bailey did everything in his power to try to gain the attention of the driver whom tried to continue down the trail after hitting said dog.”

The post said Vitello was able to confront the snowmachiner, get information about who they were and then contacted officials. It said the musher put the dog, named Oak, in his sled bag to transport it to the next checkpoint, where the veterinarians gave Oak “a clean bill of health.” 

“We were the lucky ones on this day and many teams this year haven’t been so fortunate,” the post said.

Earlier in the race, a moose attacked Dallas Seavey’s dog team, injuring one of his dogs, Faloo, before the musher shot the moose. Three dogs have also collapsed and died on the trail this year. It is the most dog deaths since 2017.

This winter, during training season, there were two deadly accidents involving dog teams and snowmachines on the Denali Highway. Three dogs died that belonged to longtime musher Jim Lanier. And in the other crash, two dogs were killed and seven were injured in a team belonging to Seavey, who won his sixth Iditarod on Tuesday.

Troopers spokesman Austin McDaniel said investigators on Wednesday were able to identify and track down the snowmachiner who hit Vitello’s team.

“Ultimately any criminal charges in this incident will be determined in coordination with our partners at the Alaska Department of Law as the misdemeanor occurred outside of the presence of a law enforcement officer,” he said in an email.

This is Vitello’s second Iditarod. According to the race tracker, he and his 14-dog team arrived in Elim at 10:34 p.m. Tuesday. They rested at the checkpoint for nearly three hours, before Vitello and all 14 dogs continued down the trail to Nome.

This is not the first time a snowmachiner has hit a dog team during the Iditarod. Back in 2016, a man ran his snowmachine into the teams of Aliy Zirkle and Jeff King, killing one dog and injuring others. The man admitted to driving drunk and was sentenced to six months in jail and ordered to pay restitution to the mushers.

Tegan Hanlon is the digital managing editor at Alaska Public Media. Reach her at or 907-550-8447. Read more about Tegan here.

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