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Alaska and Yukon Headlines
Kelly Maixner is the first musher into Rohn, checking in at 11:26 Tuesday morning.
He took the lead from fellow Big Lake musher Martin Buser at Rainy Pass earlier Tuesday.
Buser, Nicolas Petit, Michael Williams Jr., Paul Gebhardt and Hugh Neff are all currently between Rainy Pass and Rohn.
The remainder of the top-15 have all made it to Rainy Pass.
Teams are making their way into Rainy Pass as they head trough the Alaska Range. It’s arguably the toughest stretch of trail.
Many say they’re ready for the challenge, including a contingent of Norwegians who are in Alaska to find out how their dog teams fare on this side of the world.
The Iditarod has been called the Super Bowl of mushing. That’s how Yvonne Dabakk describes her run to Nome.
“It’s a musher’s paradise! You’ve got to check it out,” Dabakk said. “We were here in 2001 and we were at the ceremonial start and we were like ‘this is kind of cool, maybe we should run this one day,’ so we went home and we bred dogs and we came.”
Dabakk was surprised to find out she’s not the only Norwegian driving a team in this year’s Iditarod.
“You know they’re all just following after us. We had planned this for a while. Suddenly we hear Robert [Sorlie] is going to come back and then Ralph [Johannessen] was like ‘I’m going to go over,’ and then we heard our friend Tommy [Jordbrudal] was going to stay here for 10 months and that’s cool!” Dabakk said.
Of the five Norwegian teams, at least two may prove very competitive, including last year’s Rookie of the Year, Joar Lleifseth Ulsom.
“It’s a good team and they’ve all done a thousand mile race now and lots of other races so they have a lot of experience, so they know what to do and they know how to rest and don’t get too excited about things so I think if things fall together we can have a good run,” he said.
Ulsom is not much for words. He’s tall, shy and quiet, which might be to his advantage as he tries to navigate his way past two-time champion Robert Sorlie.
“To win the Iditarod is not easy,” he said. “You have to have no accidents. Everything has to go fine all the way.”
Sorlie says he doesn’t start a race if he doesn’t intend to win. It’s different for Tommy Jorbrudal though. He brought seven dogs from Norway simply so they could get to know the trail.
“You just can’t do enough travelling with your dogs and because it’s such a good atmosphere and the distance that we’re going to do, it’s just all aspects of it are just totally fascinating,” Sorlie said.
Much like his Norwegian compatriots, he plans to return to the race again for a more competitive effort after he gets a rookie run under his belt.
After setting a speedy pace throughout the night, the first mushers began to arrive at Puntilla Lake early Monday morning, with Kelly Maixner of Big Lake being the first to depart the checkpoint.March 3, 2014
Alaska Fish and Game officials killed an Eastern Interior wolf pack last week, and the National Park Service – which had been studying the animals – is none too pleased.
The Fairbanks Daily News-Miner reports that all 11 wolves in the Lost Creek pack near Yukon-Charley Rivers National Preserve were shot. That included the pack’s alpha pair, which had been fitted with tracking collars as part of an ongoing research project.
Doug Vincent-Lang, acting director for the Alaska Division of Wildlife Conservation, says the wolves were in an area adjacent to the preserve that has been targeted by the state for aerial predator control, which is part of an effort to boost moose and caribou numbers.
But Yukon-Charley Superintendent Greg Dudgeon said the shootings are a setback for a long-term study of wolf behavior that began roughly 20 years ago. He said the Lost Creek pack had been monitored for the past seven years.
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dog poop final
Today we’re picking up after our dogs. Yes, today’s topic is dog poop. Not the most glamorous subject, but one that inspires a lot of angst that Cherie Northon hears about all the time.
“It’s a very contentious issue because we get a lot of complaints. Some people will just call me up and say, ‘what’s the hottest topic?’ Dog poop.”
Northon is the Executive Director of the Anchorage Waterways Council. She says she get’s phone calls and e-mails every day from Anchorage residents complaining about people not picking up their dog droppings.
“One gentleman called me a couple years ago complaining about Ship Creek. He said ‘why can’t we put a person in every park to write tickets?’ That’s 200 and some odd people. That isn’t realistic.”
But Northon says something does need to be done. Surveys indicate that there are roughly 70,000 dogs in the Anchorage area, producing 10 tons of waste per day. And irresponsible dog owners are creating a major problem.
“All of our creeks in Anchorage, except for one, have fecal coliform impairments. Which means they’re on the EPA’s impairment list for fecal coliform.”
That’s because Anchorage’s storm water runoff, basically all of the water on the ground, eventually ends up in our creeks.
“So it doesn’t matter if it’s a cigarette butt or dog poop, it goes down the storm drain and goes untreated into the creeks. And a lot of people think it goes into the waste treatment plant, but that’s just for buildings.”
Northon says thankfully, Fish and Game studies haven’t found that fecal coliform is harming our fish, but that doesn’t mean it can’t harm humans. She uses Campbell Creek as an example.
“There’s a little beach there, and little kids splash around and play in the sand. And you know toddlers, they may not take a glass of it and drink it, but they splash in it and it’s on their hands. You could get Giardia or round worms depending on how bad the situation is.”
As far as which spots are problem areas, Northon says dog parks are on the top of the list. Parks like University Lake, which is where we’ve met today. She says the high concentration of dogs, and the fact they’re mostly off leash can be a nasty combination.
“When they’re off leash the owner isn’t paying 100 percent attention to what their dog is doing. As opposed to when they’re on leash, you know when your dog poops, and it’s easy to pick up.”
The passer bys I did ask about the dog poop problem didn’t seem to think there was one. One walker didn’t want to be identified, but she did say people take good care of the park.
“People usually pick up pretty well; more when there’s no snow of course. But that’s why they have the spring clean up days, because a lot of times in the winter it’s hard to see where they go when it’s snowing. But people do come down and participate in the doggy clean up days,” said one dog walker.
Northon says the clean up days do help. And there are some dog owners that go above and beyond to keep the parks clean. Like the people who stock grocery bags at the trail entrances.
“This is someone’s trash bags they’re bringing here. They’re grocery bags; Wal-Mart bags, Fred Meyer bags, vegetable bags. We see bags of poop in the trash can. That’s great.”
But Northon says extra bags and a few clean up days a year just isn’t enough. Her waterway council tries to combat the problem by handing out flyers, and posting signs. Signs that read “be a responsible pet owner, clean up after you pet” and “dog feces fine, 75 dollars.” She says even those aren’t very effective though, as they are rarely enforced. In order to get an owner fined, someone has to get visual proof of the culprit, and then submit that proof to animal care and control. And getting proof isn’t always easy.
“People just drive up to parks and let their dogs do stealth poops. You can take their license number and turn them in, and then they’ll usually say ‘ok you caught me’.”
But for most people, that’s just too much work. Northon says nobody wants to be the poop police. Not even her.
“I have a chronic problem in my neighborhood of a fellow who goes across the street with his three dogs by Campbell Creek. He goes about within 20 feet of the creek and lets them poop. And he just stands there with his hands crossed and then walks back to his house.”
I asked her if she’d like to mention him by name.
“I don’t know his name, but I know what kind of dogs he has, a German shepherd and two Shelties. And he’s well known. Even people at Fish and Game know about him, but nobody’s been able to stop him,” Norton said with a laugh.
Northon doesn’t want to sound like a dog hater. She has three of her own, and has lived with dogs her entire life. But Northon says dog negligence needs to stop.
“I don’t understand the mentality. It wrecks the creeks, it wrecks the environment, it’s unhealthy. It’s just gross, and rude.”
Martin Buser took an early lead in this year’s Iditarod. The past champion was the first into Rainy Pass about 5:42 Monday morning. Nicolas Petit was into Rainy Pass about an hour later.
Those two leaders were followed by Kelly Maixner, Mike Williams, Jr. and last year’s runner-up, Aliy Zirkle. All three were out of Finger Lake early Monday. Last year’s champion, Mitch Seavey, was racing in 16th places and into Finger Lake about 5:27 this morning.
Buser of Big Lake last won the Iditarod in 2002 when he finished the race with the fastest time on record – 8 days, 22 hours, 46 minutes and 2 seconds. Last year, Buser bolted to the front early only to lose in closing days.