DEER LAKE, N.L. — A group of snowmobilers pulled out their shovels to free a stuck moose after spotting its head poking out of freshly fallen snow in western Newfoundland.
Jonathan Anstey, who owns a snowmobile riding clinic, said he and about seven other riders set out on the trails near Deer Lake, N.L., on Saturday, when for the first time in two weeks, the terrain was blanketed in a thick layer powder.
As they veered off the main road, the group spotted a moose neck-deep amid the white expanse, buried in what Anstey estimated to be six feet, or 1.8 metres, of snow.
"We knew the moose was stuck really good,'' he said in an interview on Wednesday. "He tried several times to get himself out of the hole, but he wasn't getting anywhere.''
You could tell he was extremely distressed.
Anstey said the moose appeared to have gotten stuck in a bog hole and was trying to climb out, but its hind legs seemed to be firmly planted in the snow.
"When a moose gets distressed, they pin their ears back, their hair stands up on their back, and they lick their lips a lot,'' he said. "You could tell he was extremely distressed.''
He said some members of his group grabbed shovels and walked around to the rear of the moose, where they figured they would be safe from the animal's thrashing.
"After he realized he wasn't moving, he just kind of stopped and lay down,'' said Anstey.
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After a few minutes of digging, Anstey said they had carved out a path behind the moose, and one of the snowmobilers rode up to the animal to coax it to turn around.
"The moose actually realized it had footing on solid ground and managed to pull himself out of the hole,'' he said.
The liberated moose hung around for a bit to dry off, Anstey said, occasionally looking at its rescuers as if to say "a little thank you'' before trotting away.
Would not recommend doing the same
Anstey said it isn't uncommon for people to come across moose in sticky situations while exploring Newfoundland's back-country, but he would advise them to contact provincial officials rather than taking matters into their own hands.
"I wouldn't recommend rescuing it even though we did, because we're experienced outdoorsmen,'' he said. "You don't really want to get close to a big animal like that as they can charge or do a lot of damage.''
Even though this is his second moose rescue, Anstey said he tries not intervene in animal affairs.
"We'd like to be known as a back-country riding clinic and not a moose rescuer,'' said Anstey. ``We do what we need to do to help the wild as much as possible and give them their space.''