A moose up to its neck in muck was saved by a five-member CN Rail engineering crew Monday.
Down a lonely forest service road near Penny, the crew was heading back to Prince George when Tully Hurtl saw a moose head sticking out of a mud pit beside the road.
"So all we see is snow and then all of a sudden there's this mud hole and sure enough as we're going by we see there's this moose head," said crew member Scott Herdman.
The crew, including Hurtl, Herdman, Glen Schlivinsky, Alex Peet and Chris Sidoff, stopped to take a closer look and they were pretty nervous because they didn't want to fall into the mud hole along with the moose, Herdman said.
The crew brainstormed trying to think of a way to get this young moose out of the hole they believed was created by a plugged culvert.
First, they tried throwing logs down into the pit so the moose could get some traction to climb out himself. When the men tried it, all the moose did was eat the willows on the logs. The crew figured the moose must have been there for at least 24 hours and was starving because it's rare for a wild animal to eat with all of those humans around him, said Herdman.
"We had five guys pulling on a rope – that didn't work," he added. "We didn't want to lasso him because we didn't want to choke him so we had a rope with a loop around his head but every time we pulled he would lean his head forward and the loop would slip over the top of his ears."
They tried the same thing about a dozen times, losing heart as each attempt failed.
"By the end we honestly thought we were not going to be able to save the moose," said Herdman, as twilight sank into night.
The team tried to come at the moose from different angles, thinking that something would keep the loop over the moose's head.
"We tried four or five times to pull him with the truck and we have a boom on the truck and then we used that," said Herdman. The boom is a sort of crane that extends out from the truck that the crew uses to lift heavy objects off and on the truck, explained Herdman.
"So we shortened up the loop on the end of the rope and the problem with that was it was harder to get it over the moose's head and we all took turns because our hands would get cold and the rope was frozen into odd shapes so we'd try and try and then we'd pass it to the next guy and finally we got the loop over his head and that's when we pulled him out," said Herdman. "You can see in the video it was barely holding on to him – it was just cupping the back of his head."
Even after the moose was dragged from the hole 90 minutes after he was discovered, the crew was worried that his legs were broken or he was frost bitten to the point where he wouldn't recover, Herdman said.
"So he lay there for about 10 minutes, resting, and then he got up and started shaking the mud off and was walking around really slow," said Herdman. Soon the moose went off to the other side of the road to eat more willows.
The crew found lots of moose tracks around the area and figured the mother moose was staying close to her baby.
"None of us ever experienced anything like this – we've never heard of anything like this before," said Herdman. "We were just glad to get him out."
Videos courtesy of Scott Herdman. Viewer discretion is advised due to profanity.