Moose in distress

How to rescue a moose from the deathly grip of rotten lake ice was not an issue we had ever spent any thought on.

How to rescue a moose from the deathly grip of rotten lake ice was not an issue we had ever spent any thought on.

One would assume that wild animals have an instinctive distrust of unsafe ice, but maybe not all moose are created equal.

As the lake ice turned shades of turquoise and started melting off from the chunks of shore ice, we watched a number of moose milling around discontentedly on the other side of the lake.

With wistful eyes they looked across at our shore, much in the way of airline passengers who have missed their flight. A couple of moose gingerly inched out on the ice, every fibre of their bodies keyed to the consistency of soft ice under their hooves.

Slowly shifting their weight from one leg to the next, they hesitantly turned around and went back on shore.

Not so the young bull moose one spring evening. With the slanting evening sun torching his ears a supernatural pink, he confidently walked out onto the slushy ice.

Surprised at his attitude, when the other moose had thought better of crossing the lake, we listened to the slop-slop of his steps as he headed our way. A few times he stopped and checked the wind for scents of danger, twirling his ears like antennas.

In this manner, he made good progress with the sun in his face until he reached the white scar of the snowmachine trail that cut across his path. Momentarily stumped, he looked left and right like a good pedestrian should before lowering his head to the ice surface.

With twitching nostrils, the moose investigated the compacted ice of the trail, undecided on what his best course of action might be. Raising his head with a ponderous look on his face, he carefully placed one leg on the trail, then stepped right on it.

Well pleased with the harder ice there, he walked on the trail for a few metres but then realized that it would not take him to the other shore. Now facing a new obstacle in the form of a huge meltwater puddle, the moose sniffed suspiciously at the water before getting off the trail.

Swallowed by the long shadows cast by the cliffs on shore, his sunlit pink ears were instantly snuffed out, becoming ordinary issue moose ears again. With just 300 metres separating him from shore, the moose picked up his pace and steadily squished through the slush until he had only a few more meters to go — but this on the softest, most rotten part of the ice.

He seemed to be positively hemming and hawing about the best route, his nose vibrating a couple of centimetres above the ice. Then he took a careful step forward, nothing happened, he took another step — and crashed right through the candle ice, sending crystals and water high into the air.

A split second later, his head bobbed up again, and he started frantically hammering at the ice with his hooves. Churning water and ice crystals into a white froth, he kept trying to get back up on the spot he had stood on before, but the ice kept giving way.

Sam and I were watching nervously as the moose turned and now attempted to push his head and front legs onto the shore ice.

This was sitting at a steep angle due to the ever-dropping water level throughout the winter, and the moose kept sliding back into the lake.

The minutes were passing and the moose paused in his attempts, treading water.

We tried to think how we could help, but worried that the already scared animal might turn on us in fear.

Could we chop away some of the shore ice to expose the rocks underneath?

The moose launched another series of unsuccessful attempts to push himself up on the shore ice, sliding off the slick sheet again and again.

It was unbearable to watch. Then suddenly, he gave a more forceful push with his hind legs and got his belly onto the ice.

Scrabbling with his hindquarters in the water, he finally found purchase and hauled himself out of the water onto the shore ice.

Sam and I cheered ecstatically but quietly as the moose stood still, dripping water and rallying his energy. After a couple of small steps, he jogged towards the trees and melted back into the forest.

He left behind only an open spot of water and two shaken bush people.

Sometimes, things get rather too exciting here.

Lisa Hasselbring is a writer who lives at the headwaters of the Yukon River south of Whitehorse.

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Chief Medical Officer of Health Dr. Brendan Hanley announced two new cases of COVID-19 on May 11. (Crystal Schick/Yukon News file)
Two new cases of COVID-19 reported, one in the Yukon and one Outside

One person is self-isolating, the other will remain Outside until non-infectious

Courtesy/Yukon Protective Services Yukon Wildland Fire Management crews doing a prescribed burn at the Carcross Cut-Off in May 2020.
Prescribed burns planned near Whitehorse neighbourhoods to improve wildfire resistance

Manual fuel removal and the replacement of conifers with aspens is also ongoing.

Chloe Tatsumi dismounts the balance beam to cap her routine during the Yukon Championships at the Polarettes Gymnastics Club on May 1. (John Tonin/Yukon News)
Gymnasts vie in 2021 Yukon Championships

In a year without competition because of COVID-19, the Polarettes Gymnastics Club hosted its Yukon Championships.

Yukonomist Keith Halliday
Yukonomist: Yukon Budget 2.0

If the banks that finance the Yukon’s growing debt were the only… Continue reading

The deceased man, found in Lake LaBerge in 2016, had on three layers of clothing, Dakato work boots, and had a sheathed knife on his belt. Photo courtesy Yukon RCMP
RCMP, Coroner’s Office seek public assistance in identifying a deceased man

The Yukon RCMP Historical Case Unit and the Yukon Coroner’s Office are looking for public help to identify a man who was found dead in Lake LaBerge in May 2016.

Yukon Zinc’s Wolverine minesite has created a mess left to taxpayers to clean up, Lewis Rifkind argues. This file shot shows the mine in 2009. (John Thompson/Yukon News file)
Editorial: The cost of the Wolverine minesite

Lewis Rifkind Special to the News The price of a decent wolverine… Continue reading

Letters to the editor.
Today’s mailbox: border opening and Yukon Party texts

Dear Premier Sandy Silver and Dr Hanley, Once again I’m disheartened and… Continue reading

Fire chief Jason Everett (Crystal Schick/Yukon News file)
City launches emergency alert system

The city is calling on residents and visitors to register for Whitehorse Alert

Two young orienteers reach their first checkpoint near Shipyards Park during a Yukon Orienteering Association sprint race May 5. (John Tonin/Yukon News)
Orienteers were back in action for the season’s first race

The Yukon Orienteering Association began its 2021 season with a sprint race beginning at Shipyards.

Whitehorse City Hall (Yukon News file)
City news, briefly

A look at issues discussed by Whitehorse city council at its May 3 meeting and the upcoming 20-minute makeover.

Deputy Prime Minister Chrystia Freeland met with MP Larry Bagnell and representatives from the Tourism Industry Association via Zoom on May 4. (Facebook)
Deputy Prime Minister Chrystia Freeland met with MP Larry Bagnell and representatives from the Tourism Industry Association via Zoom on May 4. (Facebook)
Deputy Prime Minister talks tourism in “virtual visit” to the Yukon

Tourism operators discussed the budget with Freeland

Polarity Brewing is giving people extra incentive to get their COVID vaccine by offering a ‘free beer’ within 24 hours of their first shot. John Tonin/Yukon News
Polarity Brewing giving out ‘free’ beer with first COVID vaccination

Within 24 hours of receiving your first COVID-19 vaccine, Polarity Brewing will give you a beer.

Most Read