TAKOTNA — As Iditarod musher Marcelle Fressineau traveled down the race trail Tuesday, she and her 14 sled dogs came face-to-face with two big, woolly bison and a calf.
At first, Fressineau's two lead dogs seemed interested. But then they panicked.
"I thought (the bison) would go away, seeing the dogs," said Fressineau, a 63-year-old musher born in Switzerland who now lives in Canada.
She found herself with a tangled ball of dogs and a wildlife roadblock between Rohn and Nikolai. So she grabbed her ax, ran up to the bison and started to yell.
"I said, 'Go away! Go away!' " she said, recounting the tale Thursday morning soon after she arrived in Takotna.
The bison ran into the trees.
This is Fressineau's third Iditarod, and her first encounter with bison.
In 1965, the Alaska Department of Fish and Game transplanted bison to the area — nicknamed the Farewell Burn after a fire decades ago. The bison thrived and have had run-ins with Iditarod mushers before, including with DeeDee Jonrowe in 2016 and Aliy Zirkle in 2002.