Game Warden Sgt. Ron Dunham maneuvers a hovercraft over the thin ice and towards shore after rescuing a stranded hunter on the river on Saturday. Credit: Courtesy of the Maine Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife

Maine game wardens used a hovercraft to rescue two Millinocket hunters who got stuck Saturday while trying to cross the Penobscot River.

Hunter Cote, 18, and his uncle, Jason Hartley, 42, were towing a canoe with a 14-foot aluminum boat without a motor that they were rowing across the river when they became trapped in thin ice that had formed, according to Mark Latti, communications director for the Maine Department of Inland Fisheries & Wildlife.

“The ice was too thin to walk on, and too thick to break with the boat,” Latti said.

Cote was able to get to shore in the canoe, and used a rope to pull his uncle toward land in the aluminum boat. But the rope snapped and set Hartley adrift down the river and over rapids before he became stuck in the ice in another part of the river, Latti said.

Game Warden Andy Glidden, who was the first to respond, assessed the situation and contacted Game Warden Sgt. Ron Dunham, who retrieved the department’s hovercraft. The vessel is able to operate in shallow moving water and on ice. Dunham towed the hovercraft to an area close to where the men were stranded and launched it. He rescued Hartley and then Cote, who had walked more than half a mile trying to find a place where he could ford the river.

Hartley and Cote were brought to shore and evaluated, but neither needed medical treatment, according to Latti. Both had been wearing lifejackets.