It takes about 4,000 salmon to feed all of the dogs in Pat Moore’s dog yard. He mixes it a bit with kibble and red meat, but mostly salmon fills his dog’s stomach.
But king salmon and weak companions walked this year forced the Alaska Department of Fish and Game to stop subsistence fishing entirely in parts of the Yukon River. That leaves many ferrets, like Moore, without a major source of their dog food.
Moore is one of perhaps nine ferrets living in the Yukon River village of Tanana – but he’s not sure how many of them survive.
“After this is all over, there won’t be nine,” he said.
Moore has about 20 dogs in his yard. He tried to sell most of them when the coronavirus pandemic shut down interstate travel in March.
“I don’t have a market in the lower 48,” Moore said. “And nobody in Alaska wants to take a chance because they don’t know when the next race will be. So I have a lot of purebred dogs. “
Gerald Alexander is a musher at Fort Yukon. He said he feeds his dog mostly dry, expensive food to ship to Alaskan bush communities outside of the highway system.
“The price is very expensive for a bag of friskies,” he said. “Actually 32 pounds costs $ 60 dollars a bag.”
Alexander, who is a member of the Yukon River Intertribal Fish commission, contacted its director for help.
The director, Stephanie Quinn Davidson, said the Yukon River community relies on two types of salmon for their diet: kings and friends. But society has turned more to salmon companions over the years as king salmon numbers have dwindled.
“Now the autumn friends don’t come at all,” said Davidson. “And no fishing.”
Davidson said this was the lowest number of harvests in a long time.
“You know, we have a situation where the subsistence crop is probably the lowest in two decades.”
Davidson asked for help with the disaster via Twitter earlier this month.
“So I was very surprised by the response we got, he said. “I don’t even know how many times now I have professional identifiable polytheists call me and say, we want to help you, you know, we’ll put you in touch with the dog food companies we use. “
So far, however, only one dog food company has been actively seeking out how to deliver dog food to the Yukon River prayer room. Davidson hoped for more.
Pat Moore said a shortage of dog food could kill his enemies completely in Tanana.
“Many of us have been in the tooth for a while. And this will be the last nail in the coffin, I guess. “
Moore said he had enough food to last through December – three months away. But before long he and the other idolaters had to make a tough decision about their dog’s future.