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Missing Iditarod dog backtracked hundreds of miles

  • Author: Beth Bragg
  • Updated: September 27, 2016
  • Published March 13, 2013

Click here for an updated version of this story.


Update, 10:30 a.m. Thursday:

May the sled dog devoured a hot, hearty serving of canned salmon and kibble stew on Wednesday night, her first real meal since getting loose from her team six days earlier in the 41st Iditarod Trail Sled Dog Race.

May, a strawberry blonde female, probably traveled 300 to 400 miles over some of the most rugged country Alaska serves up, said Stan Smith, the Chugiak man who is giving love and temporary shelter to May.

"She traveled several times from Rohn to Nikolai, all the way up the Dalzell Gorge, up the Alaska Range to the other side, through Rainy Pass, across Shell Lake, she was spotted multiple times in Skwentna," Smith said.

"So many reports of seeing her. They were all heading south.

"It's an incredible journey."

Smith, who raced in the 1993 and 1994 Iditarods, said May was captured Wednesday evening by snowmachiners near Big Lake.

May got loose from musher Newton Marshall's team between Rohn and Nikolai last Friday.

On Wednesday, she traveled down the Yentna River, headed south, to Willow, to trails she had run before, maybe even, eventually, to Jim Lanier's kennel in Chugiak.

"She was headed home," Smith said.

Except she missed the turn to Willow, where the Iditarod began on March 3. There's a maze of trails in that part of the Valley, and May wound up on Trail 11, which leads to Big Lake.

"She was less than a mile from Martin Buser's kennel," Smith said.

Original story, posted Wednesday evening:

May the sled dog made it all the way to Big Lake on her homeward-bound return trip from the Iditarod Trail Sled Dog Race before being caught Wednesday.

The dog is in good shape, said Iditarod spokeswoman Erin McLarnon.

Based on sightings in recent days, the dog traveled from checkpoint to checkpoint after getting loose from musher Newton Marshall's team between Rohn and Nikolai last Friday.

May belongs to Chugiak musher Jim Lanier. She traveled more than a hundred miles as she backtracked her way down the trail.

She was spotted hanging around Rohn a couple of times last week, according to posts on Marshall's Facebook fan page. And on Wednesday morning, the caretaker at Joe and Norma Delia's Skwentna home saw the white female. Skwentna, the second checkpoint in the 1,000-mile race, is 100 miles from Rohn and on the other side of the Alaska Range.

Myra Phillips said the dog, wearing a red harness and matching May's description, was following one of her dogs.

"She came up from the river with him," she said. "He came right to me and she hung back. I tried coaxing her. I slowly inched my way toward her, got probably within two feet of her, and she just bolted."

Norma Delia speculated that Mae was following the scent left by more than 65 sled dog teams and eating leftovers along the trail and at checkpoints.

Reach Beth Bragg at or 257-4335.

By Beth Bragg

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