Denali National Park & Preserve

Denali National Park & Preserve

Help wanted: Denali needs a dog musher

November 9, 2009, 8:35 am

In the world of dog mushing, there aren't many jobs with a steady paycheck. Professional mushers live off the bounty of their race earnings, dog breeding skills and marketing savvy.

And within a federal government that employs 19.7 million people, there is one -- exactly one -- dog mushing job.

And it's open.

The National Park Service is looking for a new kennels manager at Denali National Park and Preserve, a job that in addition to running Denali's 31-animal dog kennel includes mushing into one of America's great swaths of wilderness.

And the pay range of $33,477 to $66,542 -- plus a healthy 25 percent cost of living adjustment -- is more than what many mushers earn in a race season.

As part of the federal bureaucracy, though, there's more to it than mushing and caring for dogs.

"Our candidate must be a strong leader with supervisory skills and will be relied upon to provide all manner of services as a park ranger -- from rescuing visitors and patrolling the park wilderness to presenting educational programs and community outreach," noted Philip Hooge, Denali's deputy superintendent, in a press release.

Karen Fortier, a Connecticut native who had the job for nearly 10 years, calls it "a great job."

It's one that changes markedly depending on the season. As much as 70 percent of the winter is spent mushing thousands of miles in the Denali backcountry -- ferrying supplies, bringing researchers to various parts of the park, hauling firewood and patrolling. Those trips can last weeks.