Rescues are a big part of our life. Bob and Quinn are members of the Gunflint Trail Volunteer Fire Department and Search & Rescue, so no matter what type of incident happens up here, we get the call. They’ve rescued lots of lost hikers, and more than a few BWCA trippers. If you read about any incident in the Eastern BWCA, good or bad, Bob and Quinn usually were out there.
But they’ve never quite been out on a rescue like the one this morning. Today the GTVFD rescued a moose who went through the ice. Bob was there.
Barb and John Bottger were enjoying their morning tea, looking out their large picture windows at Hungry Jack Lake, when they saw the moose. Who you gonna call? GTVFD, of course.
Bob, Fire Chief Jim Morrison, and Hungry Jack outfitter Dave Seaton ventured carefully out on the ice, dragging canoes in case they went through the ice. The moose was clearly exhausted. There wasn’t much time left. The moose was calm enough that they could wrap straps around her neck. With a great deal of dragging, they got the moose’s feet up on the ice. Bob and Jim anchored themselves on the ice with an ice ax (Dave was smart enough to wear Yak Trax), so the three of them could start the long process of pulling and sliding the moose out of the hole. With a lot of trouble, muscle, and finagling, eventually the moose was dragged out on her side. She laid there for awhile, and eventually struggled back to a standing position. If only that were the end of it.
Moose must get hypothermia, just like people do. The moose stood there in a daze, and wouldn’t move. Occasionally she would shake water out of her fur, but she didn’t seem to be planning to take off. Ever. The rescuers stayed by her, encouraging her to move forward. The last thing in the world they wanted was for the moose to go backwards and fall back in the hole. One moose rescue was enough.
This went on for a very long time. The moose started moving a little more, appearing to be less dazed and fatigued, and began eyeing the shore as if she wanted to make a break for it. Perhaps she was frightened of the crowd of onlookers on shore. The group moved back and hid themselves out of sight, but still the moose wouldn’t leave.
Finally, Bob and Jim thought they’d start walking back towards shore and see what would happen. The moose followed them! Slowly, slowly they made their way towards the north shore until (wait for it) … the moose fell through again. A low point in the morning.
After much discussion, the group decided that the situation was different in this location. The moose could touch bottom, the ice was thinner and more crumbly, and if left alone perhaps she would make her way to shore. They decided to watch and wait. Indeed, she eventually did get out and headed off into the woods where a moose belongs. This moose has a story to tell if any moose friends will listen.
This doesn’t always turn out so well for animals who fall through the ice. The Gunflint Trail Volunteer Fire Department is not usually there to save the day. When Kaitlin and Quinn were little, we were canoeing on Fall Lake when we spotted the bones of an animal underwater, a deer or a moose, I can’t recall. It must have been the same situation, the animal had fallen through the ice not far from shore but nobody was there to perform a rescue. The animal drowned and the bones laid on the bottom exactly in an animal shape. The kids gathered up the bones, and brought them home. Every so often they would reconstruct the beast on the garage floor. It always made us sad.
But this is the moose who got away! We hope it lives a long moosey life, and stays off thin ice.