Misha Wiljes and her team prepare to leave the start line at the beginning of the Yukon Quest on Feb. 2 in Whitehorse. The Quest said in a press release on Feb. 12 that one of Wiljes’ dogs, Joker, died just outside Central, Alaska, on Feb. 11. (Seth Adams/YQ2019)

UPDATED: Yukon Quest dog died from aspiration

Joker was a five-year-old male dog on Misha Wiljes’ team

The Yukon Quest dog that died Feb. 11 died from aspiration, according to preliminary necropsy results released by Quest officials.

Veteran musher Misha Wiljes’ five-year-old male, Joker, died on the evening of Feb. 11 approximately five kilometres outside of Central, according to a press release from the Quest.

Joker’s body was brought into the Central checkpoint by Wiljes.

According to a second statement released this afternoon, head veterinarian Nina Hansen reports that preliminary necropsy results for Joker showed that the cause of death was aspiration.

“Joker was in good body condition and there were no signs of neglect or abuse,” according to the statement.

Final necropsy results are expected to be released within one month after the 2019 race finishes.

As of 10:30 a.m. on Feb. 12, the Quest’s live tracker shows Wiljes and her team making the trek from Central to Mile 101 over the difficult Eagle Summit.

Wiljes is a 50-year-old from Willow, Alaska, who has raced in the Quest twice, completing it once in 2012. She has also raced in the Iditarod.

This is the fourth year in a row that a dog has died during the 1,000-mile (1,600-kilometre) race.

Last year, Hugh Neff’s dog Boppy died before the team reached Dawson City.

In 2017, Yuka Honda’s dog Firefly died, and in 2016, Sebastien Dos Santos Borges’ dog Polar died during the race.

This year’s Yukon Quest started with 30 teams, each with a maximum of 14 dogs, meaning the total number of dogs involved in the race this year is approximately 400.

Contact John Hopkins-Hill at john.hopkinshill@yukon-news.com

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