The Iditarod is a notoriously dangerous and difficult race. I remember learning about it in middle school (I don’t remember why we did, especially since we spent like 3 months on it…) and just being in awe by the dangers the mushers face. For rookie Bridgett Watkins, however, the dangers came during training runs. Unfortunately, during a 52-mile training run, Watkins’ team of dogs was attacked and trampled by a very large bull moose, for more than an hour.
4 of Watkins’ dogs were injured in the attack, and however dark this might be, she’s lucky it was left at that. Despite emptying her gun into the beast, the moose didn’t stop, and originally attempted to charge and attack her. Fortunately, as this was a training run, Watkins had a friend on a snow machine trailing her, and was able to hide behind the machine to avoid injury.
“As he charged me I emptied my gun into him and he never stopped, I ran for my life and prayed I was fast enough to not be killed in that moment. He trampled the team and then turned for us and charged us humans who sought refuge beside our machine. He stopped a mere 2 feet in front of our snow machine. I was able to cut 6 dogs free that were on the team connected to the machine. But unfortunately he went back to my team attached to my sled and trampled them over and over; repeatedly, for nearly a hour it continued.” – Bridgett Watkins via Instagram
According to Alaska Public Media, Watkins’ father and step-mother were both well known mushers, and in 2016, her step-mother, Aliy Zirkle, was with four time Iditarod winner Jeff King when they were attacked by a man on a snowmobile during the race and one dog was killed and two were injured. So, unfortunately, Watkins isn’t unfamiliar with the dangers of racing dog sleds.
After more than an hour of the moose trampling the team, a friend of Watkins showed up with a more high powered rifle and killed the moose. His meat was donated to charity, and Watkins says she has upgraded from the .380 caliber gun she carried in the incident to a higher caliber rifle.