Iditarod officials: Sled dog suffocated "as the result of being buried by snow"

Casey Grove

This story has been updated with a new story here.


Update, 11 a.m. Saturday:

An examination of the dropped Iditarod sled dog that died in Unalakleet has determined the cause of death to be "asphyxiation as the result of being buried by snow in severe wind conditions," race officials said Saturday.

In a statement emailed on Saturday, race officials said a necopsy was completed on Dorado, the 5-year-old dog from the team of Paige Drobny, found dead buried in snow on Friday morning.

The statement said: "Dorado and all other dropped dogs were last checked at 3:00 a.m. on Friday morning.  Between that time and daylight, drifting snow covered several dogs and Dorado was found to be deceased.
"The entire Iditarod family is mourning this loss.  We ask that you support Paige and her family during this difficult time."

Race officials have declined to talk in detail about the incident and many questions remain about what happened.

This is a developing story. Check back for updates.

Earlier story:

An Iditarod sled dog dropped in Unalakleet on Monday and awaiting transport out of the Western Alaska community was found dead Friday morning, race officials said.

It's the first death of a dog in the roughly 1,000-mile race from Willow to Nome since 2009.

Five-year-old Dorado, a male on the team of Fairbanks musher Paige Drobny and part of the Squid Acres Kennel, died "from an incident caused by high winds and drifting snow," according to a written statement from the Iditarod Trail Committee on Friday.

Drobny left Dorado in Unalakleet on Monday, according to the Iditarod, and went on to finish the race in Nome in 34th place Thursday morning.

"Dorado had been pretty stiff on the previous two runs and not moving as smooth as the rest of the team so she decided to drop him," a blog post on the Squid Acres Kennel website says.

The dog would have been secured, likely chained up, in the lot and monitored by volunteers and veterinarians, Iditarod spokeswoman Erin McLarnon said. McLarnon said she did not know if the dog had a kennel or dog house.

"Unfortunately, sustained high winds in the area have made it difficult for us to move dropped dogs as quickly as usual," race marshal Mark Nordman said in the statement.

The National Weather Service reported clear skies, single-digit temperatures and wind gusting to 45 mph in Unalakleet from Thursday night to Friday morning. Wind chill hung around 15 below zero.

Someone -- race officials are not saying who -- found Dorado dead Friday morning. In the statement, Nordman described Dorado as "an otherwise healthy dog."

"We're just trying to piece things together. There was a lot of drifting snow and high winds in the dog lot, and they found him in the snow," McLarnon said by phone from Nome. "We're trying to figure out what happened."

McLarnon referred further questions to Nordman. In an email Friday evening, he said he was trying to get facts straight before releasing more information. . The head race veterinarian refused to answer any questions, also directing reporters to Nordman.

Veterinarians will examine Durado's body to determine the precise cause of the dog's death, the statement said.

Drobny told the Daily News via Facebook she hoped to learn more from the examination.

"We are awaiting necropsy results as we do not know occurred, but are deeply saddened," Drobny said.


Reach Casey Grove at or 257-4589.