Yes, it's springtime. But this is no weather to take a dip in a Minnesota lake, not even if you've got the fur coat of a moose.
So the moose who crashed through the ice of Hungry Jack Lake on northeastern Minnesota's Gunflint Trail Friday most likely would not have survived without help from a few rescuers who helped her get back on her hooves.
The morning rescue was recounted with lots of photos on the Bearskin Lodge's blog. The lodge's Bob McCloughan was joined by Dave Seaton of Hungry Jack Outfitters and Jim Morrison, chief of the Gunflint Trail Volunteer Fire Department when they were alerted to the floundering moose, McCloughan writes.
According to McCloughan's account, they carefully crept onto the ice, pulling a couple of canoes with them. "The moose was clearly exhausted. There wasn’t much time left," he writes.
The moose was calm enough that they were able to slip a couple straps around her neck. They had just enough muscle to pull her out of the water onto the ice. But the saga did not end there.
For a long time the dazed moose did not move. Apart from shaking some of the icy water from her fur, the moose just stood there. Worried that she might stagger right back into the hole they'd pulled her from, the men tried to convince her to walk to shore. But just how does one do that?
McCloughan writes that Seaton tried to be a "moose whisperer." The crowd of onlookers that had gathered on shore even tried hiding, in hopes the moose would consider it safe to walk to land. But nothing was working.
So the men headed for shore themselves. And a funny thing happened. The moose started following them.
Just as the rescue was looking complete, though, misfortune reared up again when the moose fell through the ice for a second time.
But this time, she was close enough to shore that – after some struggling – the moose was able to touch the ground and walk to land, McCloughan writes.
Outfitter Seaton tells VisitCookCounty.com moose are often seen swimming in the lake during summer months, but it's uncommon to see one crossing the lake on the ice. "However, this moose has been living across the lake this year. We think she might have been chased by a local wolf pack this morning out onto the ice,” Seaton said.
Moose sightings of any sort are more rare than they used to be in northeastern Minnesota. The Department of Natural Resources says the region's moose numbers are about half what they were a decade ago. This past winter's count showed the population seems to have stabilized but it shows no signs of bouncing back, the DNR says.