A moose calf stranded up to its chin in the Little Susitna River was rescued during the Memorial Day weekend, by a man who encountered the animal during an afternoon kayaking trip along the river.
According to Ashley Foster, the wife of IT technician Troy Foster, the couple was part of a kayaking group on the Little Su at about 3 p.m. Sunday when they came around a bend and spotted the calf.
“There were about seven of us in our group,” Foster said. “One of us shouted, ‘Hey, there’s a baby moose.’”
Upon closer inspection, it appeared that the calf had gotten its front hooves stuck in the muddy riverbed, at a part of the river behind some logs.
“You could tell that it just happened recently, but you could see he didn’t have much fight left in him,” Foster said. “He was cold, like he’d been fighting it for a while…he couldn’t have weighed 20, 30 pounds at the most.”
With Foster’s husband the only adult male in the party, the other kayakers made for the far bank of the river while he paddled upstream and landed on the same side as the calf. Larger moose tracks were visible on the bank, so the rest of the party watched for the calf’s mother.
“We had no idea where she was,” Foster said. “All of a sudden, we heard the trees rustle and she was there on the same side of the river as my husband.”
Despite the group’s fears that the larger moose would attack Foster, based on widespread reports of cows becoming combative near their endangered calves, it never did so.
“For five, six minutes she watched him save (the calf),” Foster said. “It was very surreal.”
Eventually, Troy was able to secure the calf with a rope and drag it free of the riverbed. He left it on shore and got back into his kayak, but the group didn’t immediately see the cow and calf reunite.
“She was probably scared by all of us, well, cheering,” Foster said.
Dave Battle, who works with the Alaska Department of Fish and Game in Anchorage, declined to make any specific comment on the Little Su rescue Tuesday afternoon. In general, he says, if people have ready access to professional help and the situation isn’t an emergency, they should request assistance when dealing with wildlife issues to avoid unforeseen consequences or injuries.
“They should definitely call Fish and Game, or wildlife troopers,” Battle said.
Safely home from their weekend trip, Foster says her husband weighed the risks before getting involved. In addition to carrying a gun, he also had backup from the rest of the kayaking party looking out for both him and the cow moose.
“He told me he’d never have done it if he were alone,” Foster said.
On balance, Foster says she’s glad the group intervened to save the calf.
“He would have died if we hadn’t rescued him,” Foster said. “You keep hearing about things like this happening to people, but I never thought it’d happen to us.”