Mitch Seavey became the oldest and fastest musher to win the Iditarod Trail Sled Dog Race, in a year marred by an abnormally high number of dog deaths. After bringing in his dog team off the Bering Sea ice and under the famed burled arch on Front Street in Nome on Tuesday, the 57-year-old winner greeted each of his dogs and thanked them with a frozen snack. He later posed with his two lead dogs, Pilot and Crisp, the AP reports. Seavey set a time record of eight days, 3 hours, 40 minutes, and 13 seconds, the Iditarod said. That shaved several hours off the record his son set last year: eight days, 11 hours, 20 minutes, and 16 seconds. "They get frustrated when they go too slow, so I just let them roll, which was scary because I've never gone that fast, that far ever, but that's what they wanted to do," he says.
Seavey's push for Nome was tempered with news of the fourth death of a dog among the 2,000 or so that started the race March 6. While not all deaths were on the trail (one dog was hit by a car, another likely died of hyperthermia while being flown to Anchorage), the death total matches the entire number of dog deaths for the years 2012-2016 and prompted a call from PETA to end the race for good. "They deserve far better than a lifetime of isolation, cruelty, suffering, and death," said a PETA VP in a statement. An Iditarod Trail Committee rep says more than 40 veterinarians attend the race, with dogs evaluated at each checkpoint; mushers found guilty of "inhumane treatment" are banned from future races, per an ITC statement. PETA says there've been at least 28 dog deaths since 2004. Iditarod COO Chas St. George couldn't immediately offer a number since the first race in 1973. (Read more Iditarod Trail Sled Dog Race stories.)