Yukon kitten rescued after 30 hours stuck in a tree

Chelsea the kitten had one of her nine lives saved Jan. 17 after spending more than 30 hours trapped atop a 23-metre-high spruce tree near Kookatsoon Lake.

See photos of the event unfold in our gallery: http://yukon-news.com/multimedia/yukon-kitten-rescued-after-30-hours-stuck-in-a-tree-photos/

Chelsea the kitten had one of her nine lives saved Jan. 17 after spending more than 30 hours trapped atop a 23-metre-high spruce tree near Kookatsoon Lake.

The story has all the hallmarks of a sitcom episode: there’s a kitten trapped nearly eight storeys in the air on a branch that sometimes swayed in the wind, an owner unsure of where to turn for help, and a willing volunteer able to scale the trunk to bring the feline to safety.

Owner Janis Jessop woke up the morning of Jan. 16 to find Chelsea had jumped out the window and made for the trees.

The six-month-old kitten was one of two Jessop adopted about four months ago. They like to climb things, she said, but are usually able to make their way back down to solid footing.

That morning Jessop could hear the kitten calling but couldn’t spot her until she looked way up.

The kitten had climbed nearly to the top of a spruce tree on Jessop’s property and showed no intention of coming down.

It was relatively warm that day, around the freezing mark, but the wind would sometimes pick up.

“That tree up there, she’s hanging on, and it’s swinging three feet one way and three feet the other,” Jessop said.

Unsure of what to do, she reached out to people online. Some said the animal would make it down on her own. Others told stories of animals dying after being trapped for too long.

As it turns out, the image of firefighters rescuing kittens from trees may not be all that accurate in the Yukon.

The fire marshal’s office, which represents volunteer departments in unincorporated communities, doesn’t condone rescuing cats from trees.

Because of how rarely they’re asked, firefighters aren’t trained to do it safely, said spokesperson Michael Edwards.

“Firefighters will take risks only when they are trained to mitigate those risks. The safety of our volunteer firefighters is a priority.”

Similarly, ATCO Electric couldn’t help. Staff do rescue animals that get trapped atop power poles or other equipment, said spokesperson Carla Howard, since they have the right equipment to do so safely. But scaling a tree is not part of ATCO training.

The hive mind online started recommending tree companies.

Russ Hobbis was the first person Jessop called the morning of Jan. 17, 24 hours after Chelsea’s ill-fated adventure.

Hobbis runs Bilsten Creek Tree Service and has been in the industry for 27 years. He’s rescued animals before but guesses this was as high as he’s ever climbed to get a Yukon pet.

Hobbis doesn’t usually climb trees in the winter. Ice makes it difficult for his spurs to grasp the bark. But this was an exception.

He doesn’t think Chelsea would have made it down on her own. “It was a baby,” he said.

With the spurs on his boots and some rope, Hobbis scaled a taller, sturdier, tree next to Chelsea’s hiding spot.

He rappelled to the kitten, put her in a backpack and brought her to safety.

The whole thing took about an hour, Jessop said.

Chelsea was hungry and had sap in her fur but was otherwise unharmed, she said.

She offered to pay Hobbis but he declined.

“I have little kids,” he said. “If my girls knew that I didn’t save a kitty I would never hear the end of it.”

Contact Ashley Joannou at ashleyj@yukon-news.com

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