Sled-dog races return after four years

Mushers will be geeing and hawing through the woods around Diamond Lake this weekend for the first time in four years with the rejuvenation of a popular dog-sled race there.

After two years of no snow and a third year of no organizational oomph to pull it off, two mushing groups have joined forces to organize the races Saturday and Sunday focused just outside of Diamond Lake Resort off Highway 138.

"We used to race there annually for more than 20 years," says Allyson Griffie, a Medford musher and former president of the Pacific Sled Dog and Skijor Association, which co-sponsors the event with the Cascade Sled Dog Club. "It's where I saw my first sled-dog race.

"It's really good to be back," Griffie says. "We're hoping again to make it an annual thing, but it all comes down to snow."

The races run from 9:30 a.m. into early afternoon each day and feature a host of sled-dog and skijoring races. 

Skijoring is the discipline of having a musher on cross-country skis get pulled by one or two sled dogs.

Mushers will compete with eight-dog or six-dog teams in 18- and 22-mile races on the groomed snowmobile trails around the lake. There will also be eight-dog team sprints of eight miles, six-dog team sprints of six miles and four-dog team sprints of four miles.

There will also be a pee-wee race for young mushers, Griffie says.

The public is welcome, and admission is free, with most of the viewing action at the starting line, Griffie says. Parking will be available near the resort, but visitors must have a $5 sno-park pass.

Also, visitors are urged to keep their pet dogs at home to reduce conflicts with mushing teams.

The two clubs working in concert have helped make the weekend race manageable, Griffie says.

"Both clubs wanted to have a race this year, and neither of us wanted to do it alone," she says.

The clubs, however, didn't pull the trigger and schedule the event until November after this year's snow season looked promising, Griffie says.

Five teams from the Rogue Valley are expected to participate, and 30 teams were signed up earlier this week, Griffie says.

Getting dog teams back on the trail around Diamond Lake is a welcome return.

"People love it," Griffie says.

Local hunters pitch in on moose-poaching case

The Rogue Valley Chapter of the Oregon Hunters Association has helped boost to $6,750 the reward for information about the poaching of a rare moose in December in Eastern Oregon's Wallowa County.

The Medford-based chapter is one of 10 OHA chapters to offer $500 in the case, as did the group Traditional Archers of Oregon. They added to a $1,000 reward offered through OHA's Turn In Poachers reward fund, commonly known as TIP.

Oregon State Police were notified of a dead cow moose about 20 yards off a roadway in northwest Wallowa County. The animal had been shot and some of its meat was left to waste.

The case struck a nerve statewide among hunters like those within OHA, which has joined with state wildlife biologists and others trying to help expand Oregon's very small population of moose, says OHA Conservation Director Jim Akenson, who lives in Wallowa County.

There are no legal moose-hunting seasons in Oregon.

Tipsters can call the OHA-run TIP at 1-800-452-7888. Tipsters can remain anonymous.

Since 2005, Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife has been monitoring a resident herd of about 60 moose in the Blue Mountains north of Elgin, but it’s hard to say if the population is increasing, decreasing or stable, according to the agency.

This winter, ODFW placed a GPS collar on an 8-month-old bull and a cow to help track seasonal movements, survival rates and causes of mortality, according to the agency.

Moose are not indigenous to Oregon but they likely have spread here from southeast Washington, biologists say. The northeast corner of Oregon is the southwest fringe of their range in North America, according to ODFW.

— Reach Mail Tribune reporter Mark Freeman at 541-776-4470 or mfreeman@mailtfribune.com. Follow him on Twitter at www.twitter.com/MTwriterFreeman.

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