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'Climate change has crucified us': UK sled dog center to close

Emma Batha


London, United Kingdom  /  Thu, March 5, 2020  /  08:06 am
'Climate change has crucified us': UK sled dog center to close

Alaskan huskies from the Cairngorm Sleddog Centre in Aviemore, Scotland, train near the center. (Courtesy of/Alan Stewart/REUTERS)

A dog-sledding center in Scotland's Cairngorm Mountains is to shut up shop after nearly two decades, blaming climate change for turning snowy trails into mud baths.

"Climate change has crucified us. It's horrendous," said owner Alan Stewart. "My dogs are molting in winter."

Stewart said rising temperatures meant he could no longer properly train his "Formula One" dogs for races in Europe as they can only run when it is below 10 degrees C.

Climate scientists have warned there is likely to be "a substantial decline" in the number of days of snow cover in the Cairngorms from 2030 onwards and the region could see years with no snow by 2080.

Stewart, who also takes paying clients on exercise runs in the Cairngorms, first noticed changes about seven years ago.

"I used to spend seven months a year training my dogs. In the last three years it's down to three months, and this year it's down to two," he told the Thomson Reuters Foundation.

Read also: In Greenland village, shorter winters cast doubts over dog sledding

Snowfalls, which used to lie on the ground for weeks, were melting within hours and trails had become "liquid mud", he said.

Soggy ground conditions meant trees were also falling over blocking trails.

The Cairngorms National Park in the Scottish Highlands covers 4,528 sq km - bigger than Luxembourg. The park authority is hosting a climate conference on March 9.

Sled dog racing is a sport practiced in Arctic regions of Europe, Canada and the United States as well as in the European Alps and Patagonia. The Cairngorm Sleddog Centre is among a small handful of such centers in Europe.

"I live very remote - not like anyone else lives in the UK. It's a way of life. My dogs are my best mates," said Stewart, who used to have 50 huskies but stopped breeding them after noticing the climate was changing.

Now down to 20 dogs, Stewart said they would be kept in kennels until they died. 

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