Good samaritans rescue elk herd from frozen reservoir

Elk stuck in a reservoir [Credit: Dusty Jones]

A group of volunteers, including biologists and law enforcement, came together to stage a dramatic rescue of a herd of elk that had fallen into a frozen reservoir a few days after Christmas.

On the morning of December 29, the group of about a dozen cows and calves inadvertently walked over the Palisades Reservoir in Wyoming and fell through the ice. Soon, people driving by noticed that they were stuck in the water and unable to get out.

“I was heading to work going to Jackson and saw a cop and one other truck pulled over,” Dusty Jones, a resident of the nearby town of Alpine, told the Casper Star-Tribune. “Then I saw them out there on the ice on the Palisades with a herd of elk.”

Getting the last 2 elk out….what an amazing start to this day! All elk survived. Great to see the community come together and help these animals😁

Posted by Dusty Jones on Friday, December 29, 2017

Jones was one of several passers-by who decided to get out and volunteer to help free the animals. Calls had already been made to the Wyoming Game and Fish Department, who showed up with chainsaws and began cutting a path in the ice towards the shore.

“Without that many people helping, many more elk would have died,” said Gary Fralick, a wildlife biologist with the Game and Fish Department. “People were trying to pull elk out of the water while people were sawing through ice to make a pathway to the shoreline. It was a big team effort to try and get them out of the ice.”

The team used ropes to help drag the elk out of the ice, and most of the animals stood immediately and were able to run away. Two calves had trouble standing and were transported by backhoe to the Alpine feedground, where they were soon back on their feet.

It’s not unheard of for large groups of animals to fall into the reservoir. A couple of years ago, a group of about 30 elk died after falling through the ice. This time, the story had a much happier ending: all of the elk pulled from the Palisades survived, thanks to the hard work of volunteers.

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