Three new puppies arrived at the Sled Dog Kennel at Denali National Park and Preserve on May 3, and they’re attracting plenty of fans via a new video on YouTube and images on the park’s “Puppy Cam.”
Denali is the only national park in America with a working dog kennel, and these sled dogs help rangers perform important winter patrols in the sprawling park’s 2 million acres of wilderness area closed to mechanized travel. They also maintain an important link to the history and culture of the Alaskan wilderness, and the latest additions to Denali’s kennel are drawing lots of attention.
Three New Pups Added This Year
The trio of pups were born on May 3 to Sultana, and are named after historic mining claims: Polly Wonder, Little Annie and Lucky Strike—shortened to Polly, Annie and Lucky. On May 24, the park released the first episode of a new YouTube series, “The Puppy Paws.” The short video shows the new arrivals and their mother during their first few days in the kennel. A park spokesperson says the series “will provide viewers with a behind the scenes glimpse of our puppy training and development.”
A live video feed from Denali’s popular “Puppy Cam” is also back this year; it went live on May 29 and can be viewed at this link. If you’re viewing images on the webcam, keep in mind that it’s four hours earlier in Alaska than it is in the Eastern Time Zone. Facebook users will also find updates on the park’s page on that site.
New Pups Balance Number of Retiring Sled Dogs
The park maintains a kennel of approximately 30 dogs, although the number varies slightly each year depending upon how many puppies are born and how many adult dogs retire on an annual cycle. That number of dogs allows the staff to take three sleds out on patrol if necessary. Photos and names for members of recent year’s litters are available here.
The Denali kennels have only one litter of puppies each year, just enough to replace the group that will retire that summer. Jennifer Raffaeli, the park’s “Chief Musher” and Kennel Manager, is in charge of the program.
“I spend all year closely observing our potential breeding dogs as they work and think carefully about which dog is the best candidate to form the foundation of the kennels future,” she says. “This is no small task and the excitement and nervousness surrounding each year's breeding does not stop until we have healthy, happy puppies on the ground with mom a few months after the breeding takes place.”
This year’s breeding female is Sultana, who will turn 6 years old this summer. Details about the 2012 litter’s father will be revealed in an upcoming episode of “The Puppy Paws” on YouTube, so we won’t spoil that surprise here.
A Sled Dog's First Summer
The pups will spend their first two months of life nursing and sleeping, gaining more than a pound per week. By the time they are six weeks old, they will be weaned and begin to eat commercial dog food. Throughout this time, the puppies are handled by adults and children; socialized to feel comfortable with all the people they will come into contact with during the summer months.
If you’re fortunate enough to be at Denali this summer, a visit to the kennel may provide a glimpse of the new pups. The park’s popular sled dog demonstrations are already underway for the season at the kennels, and will continue through September 18.