Alaskan sled dogs dying for lack of fall salmon

Associated Press

ANCHORAGE, Alaska — Several groups are mounting efforts to prevent the possible killing of scores of sled dogs in villages along the Yukon River.

Dog owners say they can’t feed their animals because their usual winter food supply of fall-run chum salmon didn’t arrive.

Ethel Christensen, director of the Alaska Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals, has arranged to send a couple of truckloads of ground frozen salmon plus some granular dog food to Eagle, one of the Yukon River communities hurt by the collapse of the salmon run.

Christensen said the effort will cost around $5,000, which the organization is trying to recover through donations.

A musher from Eagle first alerted her to the problem, so she concentrated on getting dog food to that community near the Alaska-Canada border and to the surrounding area, which has about 180 people and about 200 sled dogs.

"In this case here, Eagle, they use (dogs) for their transportation," Christensen said. "Besides that, too, I kind of like animals."

There are approximately 40 other communities along the Yukon River and its drainages. An estimated 4,000 to 5,000 dogs live in the region.

Salmon is a mainstay of the dog diet, particularly on the middle and upper river. But salmon returns were dismal this year around the Yukon and Kuskokwim rivers and Norton Sound. Mushers in several villages said they saw no option other than killing their dogs.

Lester Erhart, who owns a large dog yard at Tanana, said he put down 12 mostly young dogs a few days ago and feels terrible.

"It’s pretty damn rough," he said. "They were up and coming."

Erhart usually feeds his dogs a mixture of salmon and store-bought food. This year, though, he has even less money to buy dog food because his commercial fishing season was a bust. Erhart said he was living on Social Security.

A newspaper story generated dozens of phone calls and e-mail messages from people around the nation offering money or dog food.

One Anchorage woman told the newspaper she’d like to donate the moose meat in her freezer but didn’t know where to send it. A dog food distributor said he could give more than 3,000 pounds of high-quality dog food if he knew how to get it to the dogs in need.

A woman in Pennsylvania said she had written letters to dog food companies and to such celebrities as game-show host Bob Barker, but she, too, didn’t know where to tell them to direct the aid.

The Tanana Chiefs Conference, the Fairbanks-based Native nonprofit agency serving interior Alaska, says it can get dog food to many of the people who need it.

Perry Ahsogeak, the organization’s director of community and natural resources, said the conference is in touch with dog owners around region through a program it runs providing rabies shots to dogs, and it works closely with leaders in the 42 communities that it serves.

Through its Operation Renew Hope, which is providing millions of dollars to help the people hurt by the salmon disaster, the state has given the Tanana Chiefs Conference $75,000 to transport frozen salmon and other items for human consumption.

Ahsogeak said he plans to add donated dog food to the deliveries.

Although his organization serves primarily Alaska Natives, the dog food will be made available to Natives and non-Natives alike, Ahsogeak said.

The Tanana Chiefs has opened a bank account for the dog relief effort. Checks can be mailed to Key Bank, P.O. Box 71230, Fairbanks, AK 99707. They should be made out to Tanana Chiefs Conference with a note saying the money is for the Fisheries Disaster Fund.

Copyright ©2000 Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

Talk to us

> Give us your news tips.

> Send us a letter to the editor.

> More Herald contact information.

More in Local News

Snohomish residents Barbara Bailey, right, and Beth Jarvis sit on a gate atop a levee on Bailey’s property on Monday, May 13, 2024, at Bailey Farm in Snohomish, Washington. Bailey is concerned the expansion of nearby Harvey Field Airport will lead to levee failures during future flood events due to a reduction of space for floodwater to safely go. (Ryan Berry / The Herald)
Harvey Field seeks to reroute runway in floodplain, faces new pushback

Snohomish farmers and neighbors worry the project will be disruptive and worsen flooding. Ownership advised people to “read the science.”

IAM District 751 machinists join the picket line to support Boeing firefighters during their lockout from the company on Thursday, May 16, 2024, in Everett, Washington. (Ryan Berry / The Herald)
Amid lockout, Boeing, union firefighters return to bargaining table

The firefighters and the planemaker held limited negotiations this week: They plan to meet again Monday, but a lockout continues.

Bothell
2 injured in Bothell Everett Highway crash

The highway was briefly reduced to one northbound lane while police investigated the three-car crash Saturday afternoon.

Heavy traffic northbound on 1-5 in Everett, Washington on August 31, 2022.  (Kevin Clark / The Herald)
On I-5 in Everett, traffic nightmare is reminder we’re ‘very vulnerable’

After a police shooting shut down the freeway, commutes turned into all-night affairs. It was just a hint of what could be in a widespread disaster.

Anthony Brock performs at Artisans PNW during the first day of the Fisherman’s Village Music Fest on Thursday, May 16, 2024 in Everett, Washington. (Olivia Vanni / The Herald)
At downtown Everett musical festival: ‘Be weird and dance with us’

In its first night, Fisherman’s Village brought together people who “might not normally be in the same room together” — with big acts still to come.

Two troopers place a photo of slain Washington State Patrol trooper Chris Gadd outside District 7 Headquarters about twelve hours after Gadd was struck and killed on southbound I-5 about a mile from the headquarters on Saturday, March 2, 2024, in Marysville, Washington. (Ryan Berry / The Herald)
Judge reduces bail for driver accused of killing Marysville trooper

After hearing from Raul Benitez Santana’s family, a judge decreased bail to $100,000. A deputy prosecutor said he was “very disappointed.”

Pet detective Jim Branson stops to poke through some fur that Raphael the dog found while searching on Saturday, March 2, 2024, in Everett, Washington. Branson determined the fur in question was likely from a rabbit, and not a missing cat.(Ryan Berry / The Herald)
Lost a pet? Pet detective James Branson and his dogs may be able to help

James Branson, founder of Three Retrievers Lost Pet Rescue, helps people in the Seattle area find their missing pets for $350.

Whidbey Renaissance Faire volunteers pose in their costumes. (Photo by Bree Eaton)
Faire thee well: Renaissance is coming to Whidbey Island

The volunteer-run fair May 25 and 26 will feature dancers, a juggler, ‘Fakespeare,’ various live music shows and lots of food.

Community Transit leaders, from left, Chief Communications Officer Geoff Patrick, Zero-Emissions Program Manager Jay Heim, PIO Monica Spain, Director of Maintenance Mike Swehla and CEO Ric Ilgenfritz stand in front of Community Transit’s hydrogen-powered bus on Monday, May 13, 2024, at the Community Transit Operations Base in Everett, Washington. (Ryan Berry / The Herald)
New hydrogen, electric buses get trial run in Snohomish County

As part of a zero-emission pilot program from Community Transit, the hydrogen bus will be the first in the Puget Sound area.

Two people fight on the side of I-5 neat Marysville. (Photo provided by WSDOT)
Video: Man charged at trooper, shouting ‘Who’s the boss?’ before shooting

The deadly shooting shut down northbound I-5 near Everett for hours. Neither the trooper nor the deceased had been identified as of Friday.

Two people fight on the side of I-5 neat Marysville. (Photo provided by WSDOT)
Road rage, fatal police shooting along I-5 blocks traffic near Everett

An attack on road workers preceded a report of shots fired Thursday, snarling freeway traffic in the region for hours.

The Port of Everett and Everett Marina on Tuesday, Dec. 19, 2023 in Everett, Washington. (Olivia Vanni / The Herald)
Is Port of Everett’s proposed expansion a ‘stealth tax?’ Judge says no

A Snohomish resident lost a battle in court this week protesting what he believes is a misleading measure from the Port of Everett.

Support local journalism

If you value local news, make a gift now to support the trusted journalism you get in The Daily Herald. Donations processed in this system are not tax deductible.