A herd of elk crossing the Bow River on Sunday morning caught the eye of wildlife photographer Hunter Scrimshaw.
He stopped to take some pictures of the herd near Mount Rundle in Banff, Alta., not far from the town’s pedestrian bridge.
As he checked his shots, he heard a loud crack.
“Indeed I’m looking back and one of the calves had fallen through the ice,” he said.
The calf began to thrash about in the freezing water, kicking to keep its head above the surface.
The commotion startled the herd, Scrimshaw said, noting they looked confused for a moment before moving on, leaving the calf behind.
WATCH | An Elk calf is rescued after falling into a frozen river
Scrimshaw urged someone to call Parks Canada. Within minutes, crews responded and called in reinforcements.
“It was amazing to see them take action,” he said. “Obviously they had done it before.”
Scrimshaw filmed the rescue, capturing the moment crews put straps around the calf’s head and pulled it out of the river, to cheers from onlookers, including Scrimshaw.
Using a sled, crews dragged the calf to shore, where they wrapped the weary animal in fire blankets.
After about 20 minutes, the calf was able to walk and rejoin its herd along the bank.
Scrimshaw estimated that from start to finish the rescue took less than an hour.
Parks Canada has confirmed to CBC News that its crews have responded.
“There’s a reality to that, if it had happened somewhere else, maybe it wouldn’t have been such a happy time, but for me, I was so glad to know that Parks had a plan,” said Scrimshaw. “So I was happy to be there and capture that moment.”
According to Parks Canada, elk are the most numerous large animal in Banff National Park.
Authorities estimate that more than 200 elk live in the lower Bow Valley near the town of Banff.
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