An Australian shepherd with black, brown, and white fur sitting in the snow.
This stock photo is not of the famous Nanuq, but rather, an Australian shepherd who looks quite similar. (Photo: Rebecca Smith/Getty Images)

This Dog Walked 166 Miles Across Sea Ice—and Made It Back Home

Nanuq, a one-year-old Australian shepherd, went on an epic adventure across the Bering Sea before he was miraculously reunited with his family

An Australian shepherd with black, brown, and white fur sitting in the snow.

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After trekking 166 miles across the frozen Bering Sea, a one-year-old Australian shepherd is back home safe in Alaska, the Anchorage Daily News reports.

Nanuq, whose name means “polar bear” in the Siberian Yupik language, was missing for a month before the power of social media reunited him with his family. The dog’s owner, Mandy Iworrigan, lives in Gambell, a small community on Saint Lawrence Island, which is located approximately 80 miles off mainland Alaska’s west coast. Iworrigan told the Anchorage Daily News that she and her children were visiting a different community on the island when Nanuq and another family dog named Starlight disappeared.

Iworrigan’s children found Starlight in the town of Savoonga—36 miles away from home—a couple of weeks later.

“My girls went to go play [outside], and they said, ‘mom, mom, mom—there’s a dog that looks like Starlight,’” Iworrigan said. “I was like, ‘Stop the snowmachine! Starlight! What are you doing in Savoonga?’”

A week after Starlight came home, Iworrigan learned Nanuq may have traveled even farther. Her dad told her that someone in a Facebook group reported seeing a dog who looked like Nanuq in the tiny town of Wales, which is located on mainland Alaska’s Seward Peninsula. As the Anchorage Daily News reports, Wales is a 166-mile straight shot from Gambell over floating sea ice plates.

“I have no idea why he ended up in Wales. Maybe the ice shifted while he was hunting,” Iworrigan told the newspaper. “I’m pretty sure he ate leftovers of seal or caught a seal. Probably birds, too. He eats our Native foods. He’s smart.”

The journey to get Nanuq back to Gambell was its own adventure. A brother and sister in Wales took the dog into their home for a few days. Iworrigan used her airline points to hop on a charter plane that was transporting student athletes for a Native Youth Olympics tournament. A local teacher lent Iworrigan a crate for Nanuq to travel in. Iworrigan and Nanuq finally landed in Savoonga on Thursday, April 6.

The pup is in good health, except for two large bite marks on one of his legs.

“Wolverine, seal, small nanuq, we don’t know, because it’s like a really big bite,” she said, using the Siberian Yupik word for “polar bear.”

Of course, only Nanuq and Starlight know what they were up to during those weeks out in the wild.

“If dogs could talk, both of them would have one heck of a story,” Iworrigan said.

Lead Photo: Rebecca Smith/Getty Images