Kobuk 440, last major race of mushing season, canceled due to coronavirus

Racers at the starting line of the Kobuk 440. (KNOM)

As the leading Iditarod mushers approach the finish line in Nome, a different sled dog race has been crippled by the coronavirus.

The Kobuk 440, the last major race of the mushing season, has been canceled by the race board of directors. The race was set to kick off in Kotzebue on April 2.

The race covers 440 miles of tundra starting in Kotzebue, with musher going through several village communities to Kobuk before looping back to Kotzebue.

In a statement, the board wrote “it would be irresponsible to hold an event which brings people in, through international airports, to the remote communities of the Northwest Arctic.”

In addition to hosting a race, the Kobuk 440 also brings with it large social gatherings, which, in keeping with coronavirus recommendations from the Centers for Disease Control, the state has advised against. Board members say they’re concerned for the safety of village residents, especially elders.