ANCHORAGE, Alaska (AP) — A 1-year-old Australian shepherd took an epic trek across 150 miles of frozen ice that included being bitten by a seal or polar bear before he was safely returned to his home in Alaska. Mandy Iworrigan—Nanuq’s owner who lives in Gambell—and her family were visiting Savoogna, Nanuq disappeared.
They were visiting one St. Lawrence Island community in the Bering Strait from another last month when both family dogs were lost, the Anchorage Daily News reported. Starlight turned up a few weeks later, but Nanuq—which means polar bear in Siberian Yupik—was nowhere to be found.
About a month after Nanuq disappeared, people in Wales, 150 northeast of Savoonga on Alaska’s western coast, began posting pictures online of what they described as a lost dog. “My dad texted me and said, ‘There’s a dog that looks like Nanuq in Wales,’” Iworrigan said.
She reactivated her Facebook account to see if it might be her wandering hound. “I was like, ‘No freakin’ way! That’s our dog! What is he doing in Wales?’” Iworrigan said.
The events of Nanuq’s Bering Sea journey will likely always be a mystery. “I have no idea why he ended up in Wales. Maybe the ice shifted while he was hunting,” Iworrigan said. “I’m pretty sure he ate leftovers of seal or caught a seal. Probably birds, too. He eats our Native foods. He’s smart.”
She used airline points to get her dog back to Gambell on a regional air carrier last week, a charter that was transporting athletes for the Bering Strait School District’s Native Youth Olympics tournament. Iworrigan filmed the happy reunion when the plane landed at the airstrip in Savoonga, with both she and her daughter Brooklyn shrieking with joy.
Except for a swollen leg, with large bite marks from an unidentified animal, Nanuq was in pretty good health. “Wolverine, seal, small nanuq, we don’t know, because it’s like a really big bite,” Iworrigan said.