Two bizarre attacks on Iditarod front-runners have occurred along the dog sled course as authorities say a snowmobiler intentionally charged two teams, leaving one animal dead.
It happened early Saturday, first to musher Aliy Zirkle. Near the checkpoint in the village of Nulato, she said a snowmachiner repeatedly attempted to harm her and her team.
One of her dog's received a non-life threatening injury and Aliy reported the attack to the Alaska State Troopers after reaching the checkpoint.
Soon after, four-time Iditarod champion Jeff King, who was behind Zirkle, experienced a similar incident 12-miles outside the Nulato checkpoint, according to a release from the Iditarod Trail Committee.
The snowmobile reportedly killed Nash, a three-year-old male. Crosby, another three-year-old male, and Banjo, a two-year-old male, received non-life threatening injuries.
King himself received medical attention at the checkpoint.
"I gave first aid to the dogs the best I could, loaded them in my sled and continued onto Nulato where I reported the incident," King told Alaska Public Media. "And at the point of impact, the snowmachine’s cowling had flown off, the driver did not stop, and he was a distant light in an instant."
Cowling is the removable cover of the snowmobile's engine. Authorities used the cover to identify the alleged attacker as State Troopers made their way to Nulato to investigate at daybreak.
At around 11:45 a.m. local time, Alaska State Troopers arrested Arnold Demoski of Nulato. The 26-year-old was charged with r two counts of Assault in the third degree, one count of Reckless Endangerment, one count Reckless Driving and six counts of criminal Mischief in the fifth degree, according to a release.
In an interview with KTUU just prior to his arrest, Nulato admitted he'd been out drinking just before coming upon Zirkle and her team.
He said he only meant to help and not hurt her. He also said that King was his favorite musher as a boy.
While shaken and potentially knocked off their game, frontrunners Zirkle and King both intend to continue with the race and finish in Nome.
"I have a sense of loss and anger but also of gratitude that more of my dogs were not hurt," Kind said. "I’m not going to let this schmuck take any more the fun away."
The most elite race for sled dog mushers, the Iditarod takes place each March and sees teams of one musher and 16 dogs brave sub-zero temperatures and blizzard conditions to traverse 1,000 miles of brutal Alaskan terrain.