Reporting Bill Hudson
MARQUETTE, Mich. (WCCO) – A well-known Minnesota musher is devastated following a race accident that claimed the life of one of his dogs, and left two others badly injured.
Former state legislator Frank Moe, of Hovland, was racing in the Upper Peninsula 200 over the weekend when a vehicle slammed into his dog team.
His dog Pony was killed, and two others, Cowboy and Boo, were badly hurt.
Moe and his dogs became known to many in May of 2012, when he traveled by dog sled from Ely to St. Paul to deliver 10,000 petitions to the state Capitol. He’s opposed to proposed sulfide mining near the BWCAW.
The team Moe was racing in Michigan over the weekend was his speedier dogs, which are used for shorter distances.
The president of the Upper Peninsula Sled Dog Association, Pat Torreano, described what happened to Pony as a total accident.
Moe and his 12 dogs were vying for the lead in the 24th running of the UP 200. The mushers had traveled from Marquette to Grand Marais, Michigan and were on the final leg of the race, near Wetmore.
Just before sunrise Sunday morning, the trail would cross a busy state highway 28.
“We cannot stop traffic on a major highway, that’s a state law,” Torreano said. “And that presents a real problem for a sport such as this one.”
Instead, volunteer crossing guards are supposed to warn mushers of oncoming traffic.
“[Moe] did not hear the crossing guards trying to stop him, because his dogs were barking, and he came out,” Torreano said.
Just then a pickup truck driven by a 65-year-old man ran into the six dogs directly in front of Moe and his sled. The impact killed one of the dogs and fractured the ribs and pelvis of two others. The injured dogs are being cared for at a local veterinary clinic in Gwinn.
Reached by telephone, Moe was too upset to talk about the accident and how it happened. He did say he will withdraw from the final three races of the season in Ely, Calumet and Duluth.
“People care deeply for [Moe]…he’s been with us a long time, he’s a wonderful human being,” Torreano said.
Already, changes have been made for all future UP 200 races. Sled dog teams will be made to come to a complete stop at that particular crossing and be escorted across the highway by volunteers on snowmobile.