The baby moose looked like it was born that day, small and frail, about 25 pounds. Thanks to two fast-acting anglers on the Big Hole River, the little moose will live another day.

Karen Sciascia, a practicing gynecologist from Pennsylvania who has delivered thousands of human babies, and Twin Bridges river guide Seth McLean, were fishing the Big Hole this week when they encountered a cow moose with a calf.

The river was swollen and flowing fast. The two animals were looking for a way across.

“We were watching this adult female struggling back and forth, and we didn’t see a baby until we got close,” Sciascia said. “Mom kept pushing – the current was pretty swift. The mother bolted and took off across the river. She was trying to get across the main portion of the channel, and even she struggled.”

As Sciascia tells it, the mother made it across the swift river. The calf was soon to follow. It left its rocky perch and stepped into the water.

When it hit the current, however, the small calf was swept away. The force of the water sent it tumbling downstream.

“It was small and the river was swift,” Sciascia said. “We lost sight of the baby. It was hurtling downstream and was being pushed by the river. It was too small to ever fight the current.”

The cow looked on from the distant bank as the river carried away its calf. Sciascia and McLean set their raft into the current and raced downstream, beginning their own search for the newborn.

It wasn’t easy to spot, as small as it was. When they saw it, it was ready to go under for what they feared would be the last time. The clock was ticking.

“We found it with its little nose just above the water,” Sciascia said. “We got up alongside it and I just grabbed the little bugger. I scooped it up from the river under its front legs.”

A photo snapped in the moment will forever preserve the adventure – a fast river, great fishing, an inflatable raft and a dripping wet moose calf no bigger than a large dog.

“I tried to hold it out, not wanting to get my scent all over it, but it was basically limp,” she said. “It was breathing, and with my hand on its chest, I could feel its heart beating real fast.”

McLean turned the raft back against the current and rowed upstream. They reached the bank where the mother had disappeared into the woods, then reappeared at the sound of her bleating calf.

The small animal was crying. It sounded like a puppy, Sciascia said. She’d never heard anything like it. But then again, she’d never held a moose.

“When we last saw her, we were heading downstream,” she said. “The mother was heading toward it. She had come out of the woods and was heading toward her baby.”

Four Rivers Fishing Co. posted the story on its Facebook page Wednesday. Nearly 200 people had “liked” news of the rescue by afternoon, not to mention one cow moose and her calf.

“Having delivered so many babies, it was like every other day to me, though it was a different modality,” said Sciascia. “It was cool to be in the right place at the right time.”

Reporter Martin Kidston can be reached at 523-5260, or at martin.kidston@missoulian.com.

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(19) comments

johnny Dollar
johnny Dollar

Yes....a great day for the calf. It is too bad it will just be food for the wolves in the Big Hole. Montana's moose population is plummeting and people in the woods know what is causing the decline. I wonder if the cow and calf were so determined to cross because they had a wolf on their tail?

Sukey
Sukey

Thanks for saving the moose and thanks for selecting the Great State of Montana for your vacation. We are one of the last best places...

PelosiGalore
PelosiGalore

Good job tourist. Is that the "raging" part of the Big Hole where it is 2 feet deep, or the other "raging" part of the Big Hole that is 3 feet deep? Also wondering how they managed to row upstream, in a "raging" river. Unless there was a cartoon-like waterfall looming ahead the calf would have eventually found one of the banks of the river, and mom would have found her. These people probably put this calf in more danger by handling it than by leaving it alone. I agree that this isn't about wolves, it more about the liberal nanny state and obamacare. "Hold still, I'm trying to help you. Hold still and quit resisting, I am trying to help you!" Libs can't leave anything alone. Especially nature.

Snowcrest
Snowcrest

When I swath my hay, I go slow on the first cutting, when the fawns are new born and watch ahead of my header. When I see a fawn with it's head down between it's legs, laying flat to the ground, I get out and carry them to the fence, drag them under the wire, and set them in the willows for their mother to find them. Does that mean I put them in more danger than just running over them and chopping them up?
Give me a break.

RobertR
RobertR

The Big Hole River is no where near a raging river and has not been even close to flood stage and will not reach it this year. The river is only one fourth the long term medium flo.
Good for saving the moose.

Richard grow up and become someone?

Bittersweet
Bittersweet

Funny. I see no one answered the question.

BWO
BWO

Great story. The big hole is flowing big right now, despite it's clarity. Too bad the anti-wolfers always have to chime in, whether the story is about their lunacy or not. Thanks for saving that moose!

Absaroka hunter
Absaroka hunter

Leave it to the wingnuts to find a way to bring wolves into a story that has nothing to do with wolves. Deadwolf makes a good point about saving calves, though. Let's start with Deadwolf's "hunting" license — I use the term "hunting" loosely because a true hunter understands and appreciates the role of predators other than humans on a healthy landscape, and also understands and appreciates how it enhances the hunting experience.

Objective observer
Objective observer

Pelosigalore up above brought Obamacare into it...LOL!

Roger
Roger

It appears that the Missoulian exaggerated a bit about the "raging river". But then again, the facts have never seemed very important to the Missoulian.

Tina goodrich
Tina goodrich

I love this story. Anything with an animal in it. Thank God for our humanity in dealing with animals.

jaxon
jaxon

Glad they were able to save the little guy. Nice looking water. Drift boat, not a raft.

Deadwolf
Deadwolf

Good observation Bittersweet. The water is crystal clear, hardly a "swollen" river. That calf's fate will be far worse than drowning when it meets its first wolf pack. If folks are so concerned about saving moose or elk calves and fawns....get wolf, lion and bear tags. "Harvest" one each and you will save a hundred of the calves and fawns.

refugee
refugee

What a great story!

Bittersweet
Bittersweet

Neat story. I guess I would have done the same thing although the river doesn't look very raging and I'm curious to know what peoples reactions would be had she "saved" a baby moose from a predator. Hrrrrmmmm........

richardr11
richardr11

glad the baby moose turned out ok. it's indeed a gorgeous animal. hope it will grow up so the wolves can harvest and manage it

Objective observer
Objective observer

Grow up.

Deadwolf
Deadwolf

Little guy (gal) was off to a rough start. Now if it can dodge wolves, lions and bears......

Yz250
Yz250

That is an awesome story, so glad to hear calf made it

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