A Canadian man who watched a crew set off a series of controlled avalanches last week spotted an elk who got caught in it — and then rescued the animal in a selfless act of goodwill.
The incredible story took place Feb. 3 in Field, a small town in the southeastern part of British Columbia. There, Jesse Dahlberg was watching railroad crews use explosives to trigger avalanches.
According to CBC’s account, he spotted an elk standing right where the snow was likely to slide from one of the pending explosions. He saw a wall of snow headed in the elk’s direction, and captured it on video, but then was moved to help. (Note: The video, on Dahlberg’s Facebook page, contains what he himself terms “lots of swearing.”)
“I didn’t know how big the avalanche was going to be so I was hoping for the best,” he told the news outlet. “And when I saw it, I thought there’s no way that elk is going to survive. That wall of snow caught up to that elk so fast and just blasted it.”
Dahlberg, who the CBC characterized as “being in the right place at the right time,” got a friend to come with him to investigate. The CBC then reported that “he found a trail leading up to the debris and spotted something out of the corner of his eye: a set of nostrils, an eye and a piece of fur poking out of the snow.”
“I could tell it was alive. It was looking at me, I could see its nose moving. It couldn’t move, it was in that snow like concrete,” he recalled. “It was alive and I wanted to save it.”
He acted quickly, digging with his hands in an attempt to free the elk’s hindquarters. He then got his friend to bring a shovel, and within 15 minutes, they did enough work to free the creature from the avalanche.
Dahlberg said he was thrilled the animal survived, considering how deadly avalanches can be.
“I put my arms up and started cheering because I was so excited that it was alive. The whole time I didn’t know if its back was broken or its legs were broken,” he said. “I was so happy.”
CBC noted that their fast work was essential, judging from Avalanche Canada’s stats on human survival from avalanches. Someone fully buried in an avalanche has a 90 percent survival chance if found and extracted within 15 minutes. After 40 minutes, that number drops to 30 percent.