Alaska mushers lacking salmon receive dog food donations

·2 min read

ANCHORAGE, Alaska — Sled dog mushers in communities on Alaska's Yukon River have received thousands of pounds of donated food to help feed their animals during a shortage of the salmon that is normally a staple of their diet.

Pet food manufacturer Purina donated 39,000 pounds (17,690 kilograms) of high-protein dog food last week to mushers in Tanana and Fort Yukon, The Anchorage Daily News reported Saturday.

The donation by the company, Nestle Purina PetCare Co., was prompted by the efforts of Stephanie Quinn-Davidson, director of the Yukon River Inter-Tribal Fish Commission.

Quinn-Davidson organized an online effort to help the sled dog mushers after several contacted the commission.

The campaign raised more than $32,000 in addition to the donation from Purina.

The Alaska Department of Fish and Game stopped subsistence fishing for fall chum salmon in some Yukon River areas, leaving mushers struggling to feed their dogs.

The area has experienced a decline in king salmon runs, a primary human food source, for more than a decade, said Alida Trainor, a subsistence resource specialist with the Alaska Department of Fish and Game.

The king salmon run was bad this year, but summer and fall chum salmon runs usually help make up the difference. This year’s combination of king salmon and chum salmon crashes was unprecedented, Trainor said.

“It was a double whammy. They got hit twice,” Trainor said. “So it creates a food insecurity issue for humans and for dogs, but dogs are part of what we call the subsistence economy.”

Quinn-Davidson and regional experts worry generous donations will not be enough. This year’s poor salmon run affects more than just the mushers, who are often integral components of the subsistence economy of entire communities.

“It’s a tradition, a culture that’s been passed down for years, and without being able to feed these dogs this winter, there’s some mushers who are going to have to sell them or give them away, or worse,” Quinn-Davidson said.

The Associated Press