Musher suffers dog “expiration” as racers continue Yukon Quest

A Yukon Quest dog.
(Whitney McLaren /Yukon Quest)

Yukon Quest front runner Brent Sass got back on the trail this morning after completing the 36 hour break mushers must take at the race’s halfway point in Dawson City, Yukon. Sass was followed about 4 hours later by Hugh Neff, with close running Matt Hall and Allen Moore about another 2 hours back. In a video posted by the Yukon Quest this morning, Neff, the race’s defending champion, down played competition as the frontrunners got back on the trail in Dawson.

Listen now

“We’re here to have fun,” Neff said. “You all enjoy the race, but remember it’s about the dogs and not the humans. We’re just the lucky ones who get to play with the dogs. And luckily I’ve got a team that knows where they’re going.”

Quest officials shared some sad news this morning, announcing that a sled dog had died. Race marshal Fabian Schmitz says Quest veteran Yuka Honda arrived in Dawson with the expired animal early this morning.

”At about 4:00, dog musher Yuka Honda came into the Dawson checkpoint and informed the race official on duty that she had an expired dog in her sled bag,” Schmitz said. “And the vet team took over. We have a pathologist that performed necropsy.”

Preliminary necropsy results released later this morning show that the six-year-old male husky named “Firefly” had an enlarged heart and had ingested several dog booties. Final necropsy results will be available in coming weeks. As of earlier this morning, Schmitz said Honda had not made a decision about continuing the race.

”That’s a pretty traumatic event so everybody is shocked in that moment and the volunteers, the vets, the officials and most of all of course the dog musher,” Schmitz began. “Those things are pretty tragic so of course she was very upset.”

Quest mushers may face extreme cold during the second half of the race. National Weather service meteorologist Christopher Cox said a low pressure system from the high arctic is forecast to descend over interior Alaska this weekend.

”Saturday and Sunday, we’re looking for mid-temperatures of 35 to 45 below zero,” Cox said.

Cox notes that cloud cover could moderate readings in some areas. Quest mushers travel a route along the Yukon and Forty Mile Rivers as well as notoriously cold Birch Creek during the second half of the race.