Elite sled dog team hit by snowmobile in northwestern Wisconsin – Twin Cities


Two-time John Beargrease Sled Dog Marathon winner Ryan Redington was still shaken Monday after a collision incident Saturday night with a snowmobile left two of his dogs injured in northwest Wisconsin.

Redington, the 2020 and 2018 race winner from Knik, Alaska, was training on the multi-county Corridor Trail in Bayfield County when he saw a snowmobile drive fast toward him. The snowmobile swerved to the left, causing Redington to tilt his sledge off the track. Two dogs closest to the sled were hit.

“I had a snowmobile past us at high speed,” Redington said in a phone interview Monday. “When he passed by, he was really close to the dogs on the opposite side of the path. Unfortunately, he hit dogs as he passed by, resulting in several dogs being injured. We are on our way to the vet right now, where one has to have surgery because his hind leg was broken in three places. ”

Wildfire, the dog on its way into the operation, “went into the air and flew from the collision,” Redington said.

Sarah Keefer, another Beargrease driver from Burnsville, was training with her team about a minute after Redington when she encountered the same snowmobile shortly before noon.

“All the other snowmobiles I had encountered were slow,” Keefer said. “This guy came right down the middle of the trail at high speed and first turned away from the team at the last second before hitting the dogs.”

No dogs on the other team were injured. Keefer said her team should have been very visible as there was a light on the sled and a flashing light on the guide dog.

Keefer continued up the trail and found Redington asking if she or her team had been hit by the snowmobile.

“He said, ‘He beat my team,’ and I was disbelieving,” Keefer said. “I simply could not believe that it could actually happen.”

Redington will still be able to attend Beargrease when it launches Jan. 30 in northeastern Minnesota. However, Wildfire and Willy – the other dog injured – are two of the key dogs from Redington’s 2021 Iditarod team.

Wildfire’s operation involved repairing his left shin with a metal plate and 11 screws. His left femur was repaired with a plate and seven screws.

“Hopefully one day he will be able to race again,” Redington said before the operation at Mission Animal Hospital in Eden Prairie. “He is a young dog and he has a long career ahead of him if the surgery is successful.”

Redington and Keefer said they’ve never had an incident like this on the trails.

“I’ve never had an incident with a snowmobile, they’ve all been really amazing,” Redington said. “I like snowmobiles and I’m not trying to make this a bad name for snowmobiles. It’s just an unfortunate event where the person, I think, was drunk.”

Yet the incident resulted in injuries not only to members of Redington’s racing team, but also to what he considers to be members of his family.

“These guys are super athletes, but they’re my family,” Redington said. “I spend every day with them and it is heartbreaking to see what they have had to go through. It’s very, very sad, and it should not happen. “

Redington filed a report with the Bayfield County Sheriff’s Office, but so far they have no suspects, according to Chief Deputy Andy Runice. Runice urged anyone with information about the incident to call 715-373-6120.

A GoFundMe campaign started by Keefer to raise money for the injured sled dogs raised more than $ 36,000 from a $ 9,000 goal from Tuesday night.

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