After low salmon year, supporters rally to get Yukon River mushers dog food for winter

Residents help unload bags of Purina dog food in Tanana (Photos courtesy of Courtney Agnes in Tanana via Stephanie Quinn-Davidson)

Donated dog food is making its way to some Yukon River communities where poor salmon runs have left mushers without fish to feed their teams.

When village mushers reached out to her back in September, Yukon River Intertribal Fish Commission Director Stephanie Quinn Davidson says she wasn’t able to take official action.

So Quinn Davidson says she decided to launch her own online effort to seek help.

“I took to Twitter and Facebook, my personal pages, and just posted kind of the plight that we are facing on the Yukon River with these low salmon runs, what it means for these traditional dog mushers,” she said. “I tagged a bunch of large dog food companies in that post and one of them, Purina, responded.”

Davidson says Purina agreed to provide 39,000 pounds of premium dog food, and shippers Tote Maritime and Carlisle got the kibble to Fairbanks. She says she started a GoFundMe page to cover the cost of flying the food to villages. And the mushing community responded with hundreds of donations

“We raised enough money to ship it out to rural Alaska, but then I had an individual, Rocky Riley, in Fairbanks reach out to me and say, ‘Hey, I might be able to get Everts Air Cargo and donate the freight for you, and then you would have more money to be able to buy even more dog food and help out even more mushers,’” she said.

Quinn-Davidson says Everts shipped the initial batch of Purina-donated dog food to Fort Yukon and Tanana in mid-November

“The mushers are so so grateful,” she said.

Tanana musher Pat Moore credits Quinn Davidson with leading the effort to help village mushers get their dogs through the winter.

“In my mind, she’s kind of like a saint,” he said.

Moore says the village received 26,000 pounds of kibble, which was divided on a per dog basis among local mushers.

“I’ve heard that everybody in Tanana has enough to last them through the end of April.”

Ongoing donations from individuals and businesses are expanding the effort. Quinn-Davidson said mushers in additional communities including Circle, Huslia, Hughes, Holy Cross, and Old Crow in the Yukon Territory are also receiving food for their dogs. In all, she said they’re helping feed 500 dogs.

Quinn-Davidson says the effort has so far raised over $120,000 in food, transportation and cash donations.