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Denali National Park Sled Dog Kennels mark 100 year anniversary with Iditarod start

Published: Mar. 4, 2022 at 5:02 PM AKST
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ANCHORAGE, Alaska (KTUU) - The Iditarod Trail Sled Dog Race is a celebration of sled dogs, including some that won’t actually be running the entire race. That includes a team of eight dogs from Denali National Park.

The team was invited to take part in Saturday’s Ceremonial Start from Anchorage’s Fourth Avenue to honor the 100th anniversary of the Denali National Park and Preserve Sled Dog Kennels.

“We first acquired those first seven dogs in 1922 to patrol the park and establish the park back then,” said Ranger David Tomeo. “And here it is, 100 years later, we still have dogs, we are still using them in the park as working animals in the park.”

Tomeo said the sled dogs put on demonstrations for thousands of visitors every summer. But in the winter, they haul people and supplies to remote areas within the park.

“One of the reasons that we still have working dogs in Denali is because we have 2 million acres of designated wilderness,” Tomeo said. “And that is an area where we don’t go in by snowmachine or snowcat, so how do we get out there? You get out there by ski or by dog sled.”

On Friday morning the dogs were visiting with children at the Spenard Boys and Girls Club, enjoying pets as the children learned about the difference between the working dogs and Iditarod racing dogs. Bigger and slower is what Tomeo told them, but possibly tougher, breaking trail and traveling through deep snow.

The Denali dogs will be front and center at Saturday’s Ceremonial Start in downtown Anchorage. Tomeo said the team will be the first ones out of the chute that morning.

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