Doctor Karen Sciascia and river guide Seth McLean fished a rare catch from the waters of Montana’s Big Hole River. At 25 pounds and roughly half as long as Sciascia was tall, it was certainly trophy size. It was also a moose calf. According to the Missoulian, the anglers first spotted the animal on dry land with its mother. The two were looking for a way to cross the river when the female moose dived into the water, not understanding that the current was too strong for the newborn.
“We were watching this adult female struggling back and forth, and we didn’t see a baby until we got close,” Sciascia said. “Mom kept pushing–the current was pretty swift. The mother bolted and took off across the river. She was trying to get across the main portion of the channel, and even she struggled.”
The mother managed to make it to the other side but the calf’s attempt was less successful. As soon as it stepped in the calf was caught by the strong current and began the long journey downstream. Its mother could only look on from the opposite bank. McLean was determined to reach the calf before it dropped out of sight, sending the raft after it. They managed to reach the animal struggling to keep its head above water, which was roughly the size of a large dog but with none of the swimming capability.
“We found it with its little nose just above the water,” Sciascia said. “We got up alongside it and I just grabbed the little bugger. I scooped it up from the river under its front legs.”
The unfortunate animal was completely soaked and shivering. Sciascia described the noises it made as “sounding like a puppy.” The sounds kept the mother close as the adult moose followed the raft from a distance. It was close by when the raft pulled to shore and the anglers released the calf, a little less wet than it had been.
“Having delivered so many babies, it was like every other day to me, though it was a different modality,” said Sciascia, a gynecologist from Pennsylvania. “It was cool to be in the right place at the right time.”
Her last sight of the young moose was it approaching its mother, who had finally come out of its hiding spot in the woods.
While this was an extraordinary situation, wildlife officials stress that infant wildlife should not be picked up when in the wild, even if seemingly abandoned. Doing so will decrease the chances that they could be reunited with their parents. In this scenario though, the calf would have almost certainly died without the anglers’ intervention.