Iditarod Mushers, Dogs Attacked By Snowmachines

Photo by Paul Atkins
Photos by Paul Atkins

In June 2001, I was a sportswriter with the Los Angeles Daily News  and covered USC’s baseball team at the College World Series in Omaha, Neb. The Trojans weren’t playing on the first day of college baseball’s biggest event and I already had my preview stories for the next day’s issue ready to go, so being the baseball fan that I am of course I went to the ballpark to work and check out that day’s games. As it turned out, President George W. Bush had the same idea as me and was scheduled to throw out the first pitch. The security protocol getting into the stadium took forever (and little did I know that just a few months later Sept. 11, 2001 would change everything).

That said, we’re supposed to feel safe when we attend sporting events, and ditto for the athletes who compete in these games and tournaments that we all look forward to seeing. Of course, there have been incidents that threatened notion that even the players are vulnerable to violence – tennis player Monica Seles getting stabbed at a tournament; Kansas City Royals’ first base coach Tom Gamboa tackled on the field by a father and son in Chicago. Those are two of the most publicized incidents.

So it sadly shouldn’t come as a surprise that two mushers and their dog teams in the Alaska’s famed Iditarod were attacked at a checkpoint, resulting in at least one dog’s death and others injured. Disgusting details from the Alaska Dispatch News:

Two Rivers musher Aliy Zirkle and Denali Park’s Jeff King reported a snowmachiner repeatedly attempted to harm their dog teams as they traveled to the Yukon River checkpoint of Nulato early Saturday morning. King’s team was struck, according to a press release from the Iditarod Trail Committee, resulting in the death of 3-year-old Nash and non-life threatening injuries to two others: 2-year-old Banjo and 3-year-old Crosby. A dog in Zirkle’s team also received a non-life threatening injury. The dog was not named in the release.

A video from Iditarod Insider shows Zirkle arriving in the checkpoint Saturday morning. She’s appears to be shaken when asked how she’s doing. Later in the video she wipes away tears while describing the incident.

“I’m really bad,” she told race judge Karen Ramstead. “Someone tried to kill me with a snowmachine.”

It was unclear Saturday morning if King had sustained any injuries during the attack. Iditarod officials said he requested and received medical attention for himself in addition to his team. 

Zirkle’s quote, “Someone tried to kill me with a snowmachine,” says it all, doesn’t it? Like I said, not surprised in the least that there are nutjobs out there capable of such domestic terrorism. But it’s no less shocking, disturbing and tragic. Imagine the coverage and outrage had something like this happened at the Super Bowl or World Series. What a world.  Condolences to the loss of King’s dog, Nash.