Early last Friday, two men stopped on their morning commute to try to save a herd of elk trapped in the icy Palisades Reservoir near the Idaho/Wyoming border, according to the Jackson Hole News & Guide. Soon, more motorists stopped. Then more.
Eventually, rescuer Dusty Jones told EastIdahoNews.com, as many as 30 to 40 people had stopped to help the 13 struggling elk, bringing ropes, tow straps, hammers, chainsaws and anything else they could find to break through the inches-thick ice and haul the animals to safety.
Officials believe the animals, which can weigh as much as 600 pounds, were headed to the Alpine Feedground across the interstate when they dropped through the ice.
After about an hour of toil from rescuers, all of the animals were freed, according to multiple reports. Two exhausted calves were taken by backhoe to the nearby feeding ground.
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Gary Fralick, a wildlife biologist with Wyoming Fish and Game, told the Casper Star Tribune it’s the first time he can remember so many elk being saved from the reservoir. Just two years ago, 30 of the animals fell through the ice and drowned.
“Without that many people helping, many more elk would have died,” Fralick told the Star Tribune. “People were trying to pull elk out of the water while people were sawing through ice to make a pathway to the shoreline. It was a big team effort to try and get them out of the ice.”
Fralick told EastIdahoNews.com that without the help of the community, some of the elk surely would’ve perished.
“There’s no way the Game and Fish Department alone could have made this work with the number of elk that were in the ice,” Fralick said.
Some rescuers said they took a hit or two from the confused elk cows, but overall everyone made it out okay.