5-time Iditarod champion Dallas Seavey kills and guts a moose that got entangled with his dog team

ANCHORAGEW, Alaska — An experienced musher had to kill a moose shortly after the start of this year’s Iditarod after it injured his dog, race officials said Monday.

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

This came “after the elk became entangled with the dogs and the musher,” according to a statement from the race.

Seavey, who ties the most Iditarod victories ever with five, said he urged officials to remove the elk from the trail.

“He fell on my sled and was sprawled out on the trail,” Seavey told an Iditarod Insider television crew. “I stripped it as best I could, but it was ugly.”

Seavey, who turned 37 on Monday, isn’t the first musher to have to kill an elk during an Iditarod. In 1985, the late Susan Butcher was leading the race when she used her ax and a parka to fend off a moose, but it killed two of her dogs and injured thirteen others. Another musher came along and killed the moose.

Butcher had to drop out of that race, but went on to win four Iditarods. She died of leukemia in 2006 at the age of 51.

This year’s race started Sunday afternoon in Willow, about 75 miles north of Anchorage. Seavey encountered the elk just before 2 a.m. Monday, 14 miles outside the race checkpoint in Swenta, on his way to the next checkpoint 50 miles away in Finger Lake.

Seavey arrived in Finger Lake later Monday, where he dropped off a dog that was injured in the elk encounter. The dog was flown to Anchorage where he was evaluated by a veterinarian.

Alaska State Troopers were notified of the dead elk, and race officials said every effort was being made to save the meat.

The racing rules state that if a large game animal such as an elk, caribou or buffalo is killed in defense of its life or property, the musher must gut the animal and report it to the race officials at the next checkpoint. Mushers who follow must help gut the animal whenever possible, the rules say.

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

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

“Yeah, like my team went over it, like it’s ‘middle of the path,’” she said.

Seavey wasn’t the first musher to encounter a moose during that part of the race.

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

“I had to punch a moose in the nose there,” he told a camera crew, but gave no other details.

The 1,000-mile (1,609-kilometer) race across Alaska will conclude sometime next week when the winning musher comes off the ice in the Bering Sea and passes under the studded finish line in Nome.