A dog in this year's Iditarod Trail Sled Dog Race was found dead in the snow Friday morning in the coastal town of Unalakleet, where it was waiting to be flown back to Anchorage.
The 5-year-old dog named Dorado was from rookie musher Paige Drobny's team. The dog was dropped from the race Monday and was being cared for in a dog lot, an area set up to care for dogs dropped from the race. Drobny continued on to Nome, where the 38-year-old Fairbanks musher finished Thursday in 34th place.
It is not unusual for mushers to leave dogs at race checkpoints and continue on the trail. Dogs are left behind if they are sick or injured, or just tired and not keeping up with the team. The dogs are placed in dog lots, where they are cared for until they can be flown to Anchorage for pickup.
Iditarod spokeswoman Erin McLarnon said race officials do not know why Dorado died.
"He was found in the snow this morning," she said. "We are heartsick."
Race Marshal Mark Nordman said in a news release Friday afternoon that a necropsy would be performed to determine the cause of death. The news release described the dog as "otherwise healthy" and said he died as the result of an "incident caused by high winds and drifting snow." Nordman said the weather had delayed efforts to get dropped dogs flown to Anchorage.
Drobny's husband, Cody Strathe, said in an email to The Associated Press that he and his wife were waiting to find out more.
"We are awaiting results of the official necropsy as we do not know what occurred, but are deeply saddened," Strathe's email said. Their website describes the 55-pound Dorado as a "shy but happy dog" who last year completed the 1,000-mile Yukon Quest International Sled Dog Race.
McLarnon said the Iditarod has not had a dog death since 2009.