Lack of snow puts ‘paws’ on NB dog sledding business

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WATCH ABOVE: New Brunswick Urban Mushing is losing business by the week and as Global’s Shelley Steeves reports, the company owner and his pack are getting restless – Jan 19, 2017

A dog sled tour operator from Salisbury, N.B. says he’s lost thousands of dollars in tour bookings due to a lack of snowfall so far this winter.

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“It’s discouraging,” said Doug Stoakley, who has been operating NB Urban Mushing for the past three years.

“If I added up all the dog sled rides and things just from the phone calls, I have over $4,000 worth of business just waiting for snow.”

Stoakley launched his first dog sled tour three years ago and said he was hoping that this would be the year his business really take off.

“Now I am ready to go full tilt and this is what I am dealing with this year.”

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He said he’s also dealing with a pack of restless pups.

His pack consists of 12 black labs, an unconventional dog sled team according to Stoakley, but he said they certainly have the energy and appetite for it.

“I am probably spending what an average family would spend on a mortgage a month I am spending that on dog food,” Stoakley said.

Since he can’t get his team on the trails, Stoakley said he has to run his pack in an open field several times a day so they can blow off steam.

“When they are used to running 50, 60, even 70 kilometres per week and then all of a sudden they are not getting that exercise it’s just like taking a kindergarten class, giving them all chocolate and then put them all in a room together and watch them go,” Stoakley joked.

But the weather might be looking up for Stoakley.

Claude Cote, a climatologist with Environment Canada, said more winter-like weather is on the way.

“It is going to be mild next week and then turning somewhat below-normal conditions for late January and the first half of February,” Cote said.

But he added it is still too soon to predict how much snow will fall in the province in the coming weeks.

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Stoakley says he needs at least 30 centimeters of snow to salvage the season and allow his sled dogs to expel all of their pent up energy. That amount of snow would allow for a sled to run smoothly and safely along the ground.

“It’s nerve wracking. It really is.”

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