Two men who were looking for antler “sheds” in the Maine woods last week found more than they bargained for, and their quick actions helped lead to the rescue of a cow moose that had become trapped in a muddy spring hole.
Dustin Reynolds and Ryan Murphy, both of Harrington, were searching for shed antlers in a large cedar swamp on Jan. 29, with the help of Reynolds’ white Labrador retriever Remington.
Reynolds explained on Monday that he had been trying to train Remington to find antlers and, at one point, the dog put his nose to the ground and took off at a brisk trot.
When the men caught up with Remington, they found him yipping at something, but they weren’t sure what the situation was. Upon further searching, they found the moose, up to its neck in mud, and unable to climb out.
According to a Facebook post by the Maine Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife, that’s when the men contacted Maine Game Warden Bayley Grant, who responded to help. Grant brought a come-along, a tow strap and some nylon rope, and enlisted the help of Warden Scott Osgood.
The spring, they learned, was about 6 feet across and 10 feet deep. In addition, the moose’s hind legs were stuck on some roots.
The DIF&W said the wardens used a large stick to prop the moose’s front legs up out of the spring hole, then put a rope around her chest.
Reynolds and Murphy pitched in when asked to help, but also took the videos that are linked to this story.
“We first tried to haul her out with the four-wheeler, but it became clear she was too stuck for that,” Grant said in the Facebook post. “We then hung the come-along on a cedar tree and started to winch her out.”
That process eventually worked. The moose tried to run away after she was freed from the mud, but became hung up because the rope that had been used to free her was still attached to the come-along.
“She sat down once she realized she was still attached,” Grant said. “We were able to get close and cut the rope, and she stood right up and took off.”
Reynolds said the moose seemed pretty eager to get back to the woods, and to her calf, which was watching and waiting just 20 yards away.
“We had to cut the rope off her. She was ready to go,” Reynolds said.
The moose hadn’t been stuck long, the wardens said — perhaps about 8 hours.
The wardens looked more closely at the spring hole after the moose had been extricated, and learned that it was 10 feet deep, with roots that had kept the moose from escaping. If the shed hunters had not discovered the moose, it would have died, the wardens said.
“It’s a moose story with a happy ending,” Grant said.
Reynolds said he and Murphy were glad they were in the right place and able to help.
It was definitely a once-in-a-lifetime experience,” Reynolds said. “It was way better than finding sheds, that’s for sure.”
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