Washington Families Save Elk From Frozen River on Christmas Eve: VIDEO

by Matthew Memrick
(Photo by Michael Smith/Newsmakers)

Call it a Christmas Eve miracle, but a few Washington state families saved several elk from a frozen river last month, and it caught on video.

Area residents Jeff Stuart and Jordan Fish came across a dozen elk trapped while hunting near the frozen Kettle River on Christmas Eve. They reported the scene, but authorities told the two to “let Nature take its course.”

But by that time, they already were hard at work in rescuing the animals. Six cows and six calves fell through the ice. According to KXLY, the group saved two calves and four cows. 

The Kettle River is a 175-mile tributary that feeds into the Columbia River near the United States-Canadian border. It’s roughly 80 miles northwest of Spokane.

Twenty, Including Children, Work to Save Animals

According to a Facebook post by Rylee Stuart, the two men came across the animals at 7 a.m. 

Stewart took several photos and caught some video of the rescue. They told the TV station that nearly 40 elk from the Selkirk herd safely made it across the river.

But, a dozen elk fell through thin ice and struggled to get out.

Jeff Stuart said he thought about going on the ice, but the men decided to grab their kayaks instead.

They used ropes to save one elk, and soon, others joined in on the rescue. According to Field & Stream magazine, Rylee called state patrol and Washington Fish and Game officials. A game warden arrived later, but 20 people (including children) soon showed up to work for hours.

Elk Rescue A Struggle For All Rescuers

Rylee Stuart and others guessed that the elk got trapped during the night, and the men found one calf dead while several animals had cuts from the ice. The distressed animals put up a fight, probably delirious from their long time in the water.

“We had one cow that was very agitated with us being there,” Rylee Stuart told the TV station. Rylee Stuart said the group was “trying to hook (her) to get her up on the bank and out of the way.” The woman added that the elk got on her hind legs and kicked her brother-in-law in both the back of the head and in the back.

After several animals made it to shore through the rescuer’s efforts, another citizen came with a Toyota 4Runner and winch. This device helped some rescues while other rescuers warmed the elk with fires and blankets and resuscitated others.  

Don’t fear, hunters. There was Christmas food on the table. Several rescuers got permits to salvage the dead elk meat. Rylee Stuart said those that helped in the rescue got to take the meat home for their families.

After the rescue, Rylee Stuart told KXLY she “would do it again in a heartbeat.”