On January 24th, an unusual kind of rescue took place in a subdivision just outside of Jackson. A calf moose had fallen into an iced-over pond on private property. Gary Fralick, a wildlife biologist for the Wyoming Game and Fish Department, happened to be in the Jackson office when the call came in.
Fralick has assisted with wildlife ice rescues before, including a small herd of elk that went through the ice on Palisades Reservoir in 2017. But the 10-foot deep pond in the Polo Ranches subdivision had different ice conditions than the reservoir. An aerator had been running in the pond, creating an unnatural opening in the ice.
“Wildlife rescues with those animals that fall through the ice are probably one of the most dangerous experiences that I’ve had in my career,” said Fralick. “Anytime an animal goes through the ice, there’s always that risk and danger that you could do the same thing.”
The team armed themselves with ropes, life vests, and kayaks before heading to the scene. The calf had been in the water at least an hour before the crew arrived, so they needed to move quickly. However, the biggest challenge would turn out to not be the frigid water, but the calf’s mother. A cow moose circled the ice, worrying over her baby. For Game and Fish officials, being sure the mother moose wouldn’t interfere or attack became the first priority.
“If the calf were to vocalize an alarm call, the cow moose might attack. So we didn’t want that to happen,” said Fralick. “So we decided to tranquilize and immobilize the cow, get her sedated and out of the way in a safe place away from the calf.”
Once the cow was sedated, the rescue moved quickly. Fralick and another wildlife technician, Tucker Russell, were able to get two ropes around the calf. They guided it to the edge of the ice and four rescuers helped pull the calf’s front legs up onto the ice. When the nearly 350-pound animal was out of the water, rescuers used moving pads, blankets, and towels to dry off the moose.
“It took well over an hour to fully dry the calf off and warm it sufficiently enough and allow that calf to get back on its feet,” said Fralick.
According to Fralick, the moose rescue went very well.
“It’s up to the game and fish dept to get the moose out of the water, and so we were able to do that with the help of the public. And we maintained our safety which is very important, as well as the safety of the moose,” Fralick said.
The moose pair have been spotted since in the area and seem to be doing fine.