Sled dog during operation after collision with snowmobile handlebars

A dog that was part of a champion sled dog team is being operated on after being hit by a snowmobile collision in northern Wisconsin.

Musher Ryan Redington was on a Bayfield County trail shortly after noon. 6.30pm on Saturday when a snowmobile driving in the opposite direction appeared to deliberately swing towards them, Redington said. Redington’s dogs were equipped with reflectors and flashing harnesses; Redington carried a glowing LED headlight and he kept to the right side of the path.

The dog that sustained the injury was one of Redington’s “wheel dogs”, which refers to the dogs in the position closest to the sled.

“I had to roll my sled out of the track, into the snow, where (the driver) was not affecting me,” Redington said. “I saw my wheel dog, Wildfire, get hit and thrown up in the air … out in the snow where I was.”

Another dog, Willy, was also thrown into the air during the collision. Willy’s injuries turned out to be less serious. X-rays would reveal that Wildfire’s legs were broken. Redington took Wildfire to a Twin Cities veterinary clinic for surgery Tuesday morning.

A report from the Bayfield County Sheriff’s Office reveals few details about the snowmobile driver. Redington could not be sure of the make, model or even color of the snowmobile. “Given the missing description,” the report reads, “there is no way to find this machine or the operator.”

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A witness on the trail also did not have a clear description, but told in an interview with WPR that she passed Redington’s team and later saw a snowmobile driving ruthlessly in the direction of Redington and the dogs.

“I was sitting at the stop sign,” said Diane Lauritsen, 67, who was driving a snowmobile with her family Saturday night. The snowmobile “flew over so fast that it actually scared me … He did not stop at all.”

Lauritsen said she was worried at the time that the ruthless driver would pass the dog sled team, but she did not become aware of the crash until she saw it online the next day. Redington shared details on Facebook with a group of snowmobiles.

“If (the driver) had just stayed on his own side of the path, there would not have been a problem,” Lauritsen said. “That’s what I asked for: Please be on your own side of the path.”

Redington is a native of Alaska whose grandfather founded the Iditarod. He is a skilled rider with victories in the Minnesota 2020 Beargrease Sled Dog Marathon and was the only rider to complete the 2021 Kobuk 440 track in Alaska after blizzards forced other teams out. He trains in the Ashland area every year and said before Saturday that he has only ever had positive interactions with snowmobiles he has encountered on the trails.

Redington said there has been “enormous outreach” in the wake of the crash. Tuesday morning, a GoFundMe page created by Keefer showed nearly $ 27,000 in donations.

“I’m just thankful that (Wildfire) did not die and that the snowmobile did not also come in contact with me so I could take care of the dogs.”

Bayfield County Chief Deputy Andy Bernice said anyone with information about the crash should contact 715-373-6120. A reward fund set up by other members of the dog sled community offers $ 1,000 for information leading to an arrest.


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