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Category: Alaska

No sled dog deaths during Iditarod for second consecutive year

Musher Peter Kaiser races from Safety to the Nome, Alaska, finish line of the 2011 Iditarod Trail Sled Dog Race.

For the second consecutive year, no dogs died during the Iditarod Trail Sled Dog Race.

"I’m ecstatic. Last year zero dog deaths were considered an anomaly. Two years in a row with no deaths is a statement," Stu Nelson, Iditarod chief veterinarian, told Eye on the Trail.

Nelson believes that one reason for the drop in dog mortality is the focus on reducing ulcers or ulcer-related issues in the sled dogs. While the cause of ulcers in the animals is unclear, methods to reduce or prevent them are not.

"In the past we did nothing, and then three years ago, ongoing research by Dr. Mike Davis showed that an acid suppressant could control ulcers," said Nelson.

Davis, a professor of Physiological Sciences at Oklahoma State University and a licensed veterinarian, does off-season research on sled dogs in cooperation with kennel owners. Thanks to that research, Nelson encouraged mushers to give acid suppressants to their teams, and said that the results from those doing so are evident.

"I knew that if we could control ulcers, we could have zero deaths," Nelson said. "The animal rights people who attack the Iditarod and the sport are not really interested in dog care. They have not spent one cent on research, not one cent on improving animal care."

Nelson, an Iditarod veterinarian for 25 years -- with 16 of those as chief managing a 41-member volunteer vet corp -- seems to enjoy everything about the 1,000-mile plus race.

"It’s about the people, the mushers, the volunteers, the villagers; there is a camaraderie that comes with sharing the event. It’s about the beauty of the land ... but ultimately it is about the dogs. They are fun-loving and happy go lucky."

-- Kelly Burgess
twitter.com/latimesoutposts

Photo: Musher Peter Kaiser races from Safety to the Nome, Alaska, finish line of the 2011 Iditarod Trail Sled Dog Race. Credit: Bob Hallinen / Anchorage Daily News


Lance Mackey completes 2011 Iditarod, finishing 16th

Popular musher Lance Mackey pulled into Nome, Alaska, at 8:55 a.m. Wednesday, officially ending his 2011 Iditarod Trail Sled Dog Race finishing in 16th place.

"The top 15 guys and some of the ones behind me have been trying to beat me for the last four years, and they all got their shot at once," Mackey told the Anchorage Daily News. "So now it's over with. I'll be back."

Upon arriving in Nome, he was met by cheers and well-wishers. "I didnt have to be first to still have a fan club. That was nice," Mackey said.

When asked if Wilson was his dog of the future, Mackey replied, "Oh, absolutely, look at him, he's so happy. He led every step, and a lot of it in single lead.

"As you've all seen they're fast enough to win this race and I've been on a training trip since Nikolai with plans for the next year or two."

His responses made it pretty clear that we'll see the Fairbanks musher back for the 2012 "last great race on Earth."

Mackey, 40, who won four consecutive Iditarod races from 2007 to 2010, was down to seven dogs in harness of the original 16-dog team he started with in Anchorage.

-- Kelly Burgess
twitter.com/latimesoutposts

Video credit: Kyle Hopkins / Anchorage Daily News

Alaska native John Baker wins his first Iditarod and sets new race record

Musher John Baker pets his lead dogs Snickers, left and Velvet after winning the the 2011 Iditarod Trail Sled Dog Race on Tuesday, also setting a new race record. With 10 dogs in harness, musher John Baker passed under the burled arch that marks the finish line in Nome, Alaska, at 9:46 a.m. Tuesday to win the 39th Iditarod Trail Sled Dog Race. Covering the 1,131 miles of the Southern Route in 8 days, 19 hours, 46 minutes and 39 seconds, the native Alaskan from Kotzebue has set a race record, besting the time set in 2002 by Martin Buser by about three hours.

"I feel good. Real good," Baker, 48, told the Anchorage Daily News at the finish line. "Running a team like this, there's nothing better. They are willing to climb any obstacle and make the most of it. I'm really proud of them."

Instead of the head-to-head finish anticipated against Ramey Smyth, who had been in seemingly close pursuit leaving recent checkpoints, Baker pulled away from the Willow, Alaska, musher Tuesday morning, thereby eliminating any chance of Smyth overtaking him. Smyth crossed the finish line in second place 64 minutes later, also under Buser's previous record time.

Baker's victory also ended Lance Mackey's Iditarod consecutive win streak at four, though the Fairbanks musher admitted Sunday that he wouldn't win this year. Mackey is currently listed as running in 16th place with seven dogs still in harness.

Once the last musher is off the trail -- a spot currently held by rookie Kris Hoffman -- the Widow's Lamp hanging from the burled arch will be extinguished, marking the end of the 2011 Iditarod.

-- Kelly Burgess
twitter.com/latimesoutposts

Photo: Musher John Baker pets his lead dogs Snickers, left, and Velvet after winning the 2011 Iditarod Trail Sled Dog Race on Tuesday, also setting a race record. Credit: Bob Hallinen / Anchorage Daily News


Four-time Iditarod champ Lance Mackey concedes 2011 race

Musher Lance Mackey with one of his sled dogs at a checkpoint during the Iditarod Trail Sled Dog Race.

Defending and four-time consecutive Iditarod Trail Sled Dog Race champion Lance Mackey has decided that a five-peat isn't in the cards for him.

"This is somebody else's year," Mackey told the Alaska Dispatch after arriving at the Kaltag checkpoint. "We’ve been lucky and now it's someone else's turn," he said. "I’ll be the first to congratulate that winner as soon as I get there to see them."

Mackey said that he did a lot of thinking between recent checkpoints about his lost shot at a fifth win, and resolved that this year's race would not be about losing but instead remembered as the race that punctuated what has been a long run of good fortune.

"It would be really greedy of me to think that I should have another perfect run," the 40-year-old Fairbanks, Ala., musher said. "These are world-class dog teams I am running against and every one of them deserves a victory."

Who will get that victory remains to be seen, though it will likely be decided in the next few days.

Current race leader John Baker, 48, headed out of the Unalakleet checkpoint about three hours before the second-place team of Hans Gatt. During his layover at the previous checkpoint of Kaltag, Baker, a native Alaskan from Kotzebue, said that his strategy now to the finish will simply be to "keep traveling as much as we can" and to "just keep moving'' so as to maintain the lead he has established.

-- Kelly Burgess
twitter.com/latimesoutposts

Photo: Musher Lance Mackey with one of his sled dogs at a checkpoint during the Iditarod Trail Sled Dog Race. Credit: Bob Hallinen / Anchorage Daily News

Iditarod Trail Sled Dog Race musher reaches halfway point

Sled dogs rest at a checkpoint during the 2011 Iditarod Sled Dog Race. The 2011 Iditarod Trail Sled Dog Race reached the halfway point for one musher early Thursday.

Trent Herbst of Ketchum, Idaho, was the first to arrive in the abandoned mining town of Iditarod, which marks the midpoint of the race, and in doing so was awarded the GCI Dorothy Page Halfway Award as well as $3,000 in gold nuggets.

Herbst, however, had not yet taken the mandatory 24-hour layover for his team. Race frontrunners took layovers in Takotna on Wednesday, so Herbst will watch as others pass him, including Martin Buser, who has been making tremendous time between checkpoints thus far.

Veteran musher Mitch Seavey had to drop out of the race Thursday morning with an injured hand. The Anchorage Daily News reported that Seavey, who won the 2004 Idatarod, was cutting open a bale of straw at Ophir checkpoint when he injured his fingers. Race marshal Mark Nordman determined that the injury was severe enough to warrant Seavey's removal from the race.

-- Kelly Burgess
twitter.com/latimesoutposts

Photo: Sled dogs rest at a checkpoint. Credit: Bob Hallinen / Anchorage Daily News

 

Martin Buser leading Iditarod Trail Sled Dog Race

An Iditarod Trail Sled Dog Race musher crosses the taiga forest between the Skwentna and Finger Lake checkpoints Monday with Mount Foraker, left, and Denali in the background.

The Iditarod Trail Sled Dog Race had a new leader Tuesday morning, with Martin Buser the first musher to reach the Nikolai checkpoint.

Four minutes behind Buser was Robert Bundtzen, with Hugh Neff arriving one minute after that. Ray Redington Jr. checked in fourth, and Lance Mackey arrived fifth, 35 minutes after Buser.

Mackey, the defending and four-time consecutive champion, has dropped four of his 16-dog team, including the 2010 Golden Harness winner, Maple, who led Mackey's team to victory last year.

"I'm not going to get discouraged at this point, but it doesn’t look too promising at this time," Mackey told the Anchorage Daily News as he piled straw among his team at the Nikolai checkpoint, where he dropped three of his dogs -- Jester, Pimp (who Mackey described as "one of my veteran superstars") and Lippy -- that he said weren't pulling or eating well and seemed sore.

"They're not right, and I'm not one to jeopardize the future of my dogs just for my own personal satisfaction," he said.

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2011 Iditarod Trail Sled Dog Race begins

Defending champion Lance Mackey drives his dog team from the starting line of the ceremonial start of the Iditarod Trail Sled Dog Race in Anchorage. The 2011 Iditarod Trail Sled Dog Race kicked off this weekend, with 62 mushers and their dog teams on the road to Nome, Alaska, vying for the championship.

With both Saturday's ceremonial start in downtown Anchorage and the official restart from Willow behind them, the teams will cover a total of 1,131 miles using the Southern Route, as is done in odd-numbered years.

Called the "last great race on Earth," each team of 12 to 16 dogs and their musher cover the distance in approximately nine to 13 days, with 25 checkpoints, including Anchorage and Nome, along the way.

Current Iditarod champion Lance Mackey is back, hoping to add a fifth victory to his record four consecutive wins. Also in the mix is Rick Swenson, the only competitor to have won the race five times (though over 30 years). Another returning champion is Martin Buser, a four-time winner as well. Buser is currently the musher with the most consecutive Iditarod finishes -- 25 races -- and holds the record for the fastest Iditarod, completing the 2002 race in 8 days, 22 hours, 46 minutes and 2 seconds.

Here's wishing all competitors -- both human and canine -- luck on their journey over the days and weeks ahead. Hopefully all will arrive safely in Nome.

-- Kelly Burgess
twitter.com/latimesoutposts

Photo: Defending champion Lance Mackey drives his dog team from the starting line of the ceremonial start of the Iditarod Trail Sled Dog Race. Credit: Al Grillo /Reuters


Veteran angler Steve Carson hosting free fishing seminar Nov. 29 and 30 at Sport Chalet

Carson big yellow vertical Veteran angler Steve Carson, whose Irvine Lake fishing reports appear weekly in Outposts, will be hosting a sport fishing seminar from 6 to 8 p.m. on Nov. 29 at Sport Chalet in Marina del Rey and Nov. 30 at the Torrance Sport Chalet.

Carson will be sharing tips on how to catch more and bigger fish -- and have more fun doing it -- in Southern California, Alaska, Mexico and elsewhere, covering freshwater and saltwater fish with emphasis on the current hot local trout bite at Irvine Lake and other urban trout destinations. Carson will also discuss teaching kids to fish, and how to hopefully keep their interest up while fishing.

Carson, Penn Fishing University program director, has an impressive resume. He's ranked in the top 10 in the world among International Game Fish Assn. membership for the most different species of fish (235) caught on rod and reel; he was named one of the "Top 30 anglers in the West" by Western Outdoors magazine in 2006 and was inducted into the California Outdoors Hall of Fame in 2010. Carson is also a radio personality; outdoors writer; pro staffer for Penn, Rapala, Luhr Jensen, Berkley and Flambeau (to name a few); and tournament director for the Berkley Alaska Grand Slam, Lake Oroville Open Bass tournament and Penn International Baja Grand Slam tournament.

There will also be a prize drawing, with the chance to win a pair of admission passes and boat rental at Irvine Lake as well as additional prizes from Rapala, Berkley and others.

Admission to both seminars is free, but attendees are advised to arrive early as seating is limited. The Marina del Rey Sport Chalet is in the Via Marina Marketplace, 13455 Maxella Ave.; the Torrance store is located at 21305 Hawthorne Blvd.

-- Kelly Burgess
Twitter.com/latimesoutposts

Photo: Angler Steve Carson will be hosting free sport fishing seminars at Sport Chalet locations in Marina del Rey and Torrance. Credit: Steve Carson

Four-time Iditarod champion Lance Mackey profiled in ESPN The Magazine

Lance Mackey holds two of his dogs, Rev and Maple, who wear rose garlands, after Mackey won his fourth consecutive Iditarod Trail Sled Dog race.

Four-time Iditarod Trail Sled Dog Race champion Lance Mackey is one tough son-of-a-gun. The musher is profiled in the article, "Pushing through the pain," by Seth Wickersham in the Oct. 18 issue of ESPN The Magazine.

A truly remarkable athlete, Mackey speaks candidly about his life, including his fight with cancer, drug and alcohol addiction, losing body parts (including his left index finger) and how he keeps persevering through it all.

Next March, Mackey could become the first man to win five consecutive Iditarods, the "Last Great Race on Earth."

While some may decry the annual race as 1,000-miles of cruelty for the sled-dogs, with Mackey it is obvious he cares about his dogs -- not only those he races but also the ones he and his wife, Tonya, raise at Lance Mackey's Comeback Kennel, which sells and leases dogs to other mushers. If he doesn't like the way his customers care for his dogs, he often takes them back.

Continue reading »

Alaska angler catches same 200-pound halibut twice

Fairbanks, Alaska, resident Melody Dalbec with her twice-caught halibut. An Alaska angler had luck on her side recently when she landed the same 200-pound halibut not once, but twice to take top prize in a halibut fishing derby.

Fairbanks resident Melody Dalbec was on a charter fishing trip June 19 out of Valdez, Alaska, with her husband, Randy, when she hooked the fish. She was able to get it to the side of the vessel, where the captain harpooned it, but the halibut ran under the boat and broke the line.

She started fishing again, and soon Dalbec, her husband and another angler got their lines tangled and had to reel them in. And there was the 200-pounder, back on Dalbec's line beneath the tangle. 

"Sure as tootin', it was my fish," Dalbec told the Fairbanks Daily News-Miner.

The fish, weighing in at half-pound shy of 200 pounds, was the biggest halibut caught during the Valdez Fish Derbies 11-day "Halibut Hullabaloo" tournament, earning Dalbec two tickets anywhere Alaska Airlines flies. The fish also gave Dalbec the lead in the overall Halibut Derby, and will be worth an additional $15,000 grand prize if it holds up as the largest caught until the contest ends on Sept. 5.

Even if she doesn't garner the top prize, Dalbec certainly is a winner, with an original fishing tale to tell.

"I’m just tickled," Dalbec said. "It's a story I’ll tell my grandkids forever."

-- Kelly Burgess

Photo: Fairbanks, Alaska, resident Melody Dalbec with her twice-caught halibut. Credit: Valdez Fish Derbies

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Veteran angler Steve Carson hosting free fishing seminar Monday at Sport Chalet, Marina del Rey

Carson_tuna Veteran angler Steve Carson, whose Irvine Lake fishing reports appear weekly in Outposts, will be hosting a sport fishing seminar Monday from 6 to 8 p.m. at Sport Chalet in Marina del Rey.

Carson will be sharing tips on how to catch more and bigger fish -- and have more fun doing it -- in Southern California, Alaska, Mexico and elsewhere, and covering fish including  albacore, yellowtail, trout and tuna. He'll also discuss teaching kids to fish, and how to hopefully keep their interest up while fishing.

Carson, Penn Fishing University program director, has an impressive resume. He's ranked No. 3 in the world among International Game Fish Assn. membership for the most different species of fish (235) caught on rod and reel; named one of the "Top 30 anglers in the West" by Western Outdoors magazine in 2006; and inducted into the California Outdoors Hall of Fame in 2010. Carson is also a radio personality, outdoors writer, pro staffer for Penn, Rapala, Luhr Jensen, Berkley and Flambeau (to name a few), and tournament director for the Berkley Alaska Grand Slam, Lake Oroville Open Bass tournament and Penn International Baja Grand Slam tournament.

There will also be a prize drawing, with the chance to win an overnight trip from Fisherman's Landing, a pair of admission passes and boat rental at Irvine Lake plus additional prizes from Rapala, Berkley and others.

Admission to the seminar is free, but attendees are advised to arrive early as seating is limited. The Marina del Rey Sport Chalet is in the Via Marina Marketplace, 13455 Maxella Ave.

-- Kelly Burgess

Photo: Steve Carson with a nice tuna caught last fall out of San Diego. Credit: Steve Carson

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Backpacker shoots and kills grizzly bear in Denali National Park

A grizzly in Denali National Park and Preserve. A backpacker shot and killed a grizzly bear in Denali National Park and Preserve on Friday after the animal charged toward his hiking companion. This is the first shooting incident since a change in federal law that allows firearms to be carried in many national parks and wildlife refuges went into effect in February.

This is also the first known shooting of a grizzly bear in the wilderness portion of the park by a visitor.

According to park spokeswoman Kris Fister, the backpackers were hiking in an area about 35 miles from park headquarters when they heard noise in nearby brush. The male hiker drew a .45-caliber pistol he was carrying, and when the bear emerged and charged toward his female hiking companion, he fired about nine rounds toward the grizzly.

The bear returned to the brush, at which point the hikers headed back the way they came, until meeting a park employee and reporting the incident.

Since it was unclear if the animal was killed or only wounded, the area was immediately closed to other hikers. The bear's carcass was discovered Saturday evening by park rangers near where the shooting took place.

The names of the hikers have not been released, pending investigation into the justification of the shooting. According to the press release issued by Fister, it is legal to carry a firearm in the original Mt. McKinley portion of the park where the incident occurred, but it is not legal to discharge it.

-- Kelly Burgess

Photo: A grizzly in Denali National Park and Preserve. Credit: Kent Miller

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Outposts' primary contributor is Kelly Burgess.



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