Caribou and calf rescued after falling through icy river in Manitoba


A recent bout of mild weather left two caribou in a very precarious situation this week.

On Wednesday, a caribou cow and her calf got stuck in the middle of the Minago River, about 530 kilometres north of Winnipeg. According to reports, the pair fell through the ice while crossing the river at around 10 a.m. that day.

Photo by Province of Manitoba

Although someone in the area witnessed the incident and reported it to conservation officers, the caribou were stuck in the icy waters for at least two hours before help arrived.

“I was quite impressed they were still able to stay swimming in the conditions,” conservation officer Matt Burke told CBC News. “I’m not too sure what their plan was. Maybe they thought they could swim across but it obviously didn’t work out.”

Photo by Province of Manitoba

Because much of the river was partially frozen, the rescue crew wasn’t able to use a regular boat to reach the caribou. Instead, they used an airboat lent to them by the Cross Lake community council. 

When the crew hopped into the airboat and headed out onto the ice, they must have startled the cow. Once she saw the airboat coming toward her and the calf, she began twisting her body and kicking with all her might, breaking through the icy waters and making it back to shore before her rescuers could offer a hand. 

Photo by Province of Manitoba

The calf was left stuck in the ice, so the team continued moving toward it. When they got close, Burke carefully slipped a snare over its head and they dragged it to shore where its mother was waiting.

Reunited back on land, the two got up and ran to the nearby forest. They quickly took off out of sight, but not before the cow bluff charged their rescuers.

Photo by Province of Manitoba

“They’re very protective of their young,” Burke told CBC.

Although he and the rest of the crew only reached the calf, we think they still deserve credit for saving both of the animals. After all, if it weren’t for the air boat, the cow may have never conjured enough strength to pull herself out of the icy water.

“I’m sure that we gave it some inspiration in that way,” Burke said.