Volunteers Rescue Herd of Elk that Fell Through the Ice on Wyoming Reservoir

After falling through the ice into Palisades Reservoir on Friday morning, a dozen elk were roped, lassoed, and pulled to safety.

After morning commuters outside Alpine noticed elk struggling in the reservoir, a group of more than 20 concerned citizens, law enforcement officers, wildlife biologists, and others gathered between 7 and 8 a.m., according to Gary Fralick, a wildlife biologist with the Wyoming Game and Fish Department.

Photo courtesy Dusty Jones

“I was driving to work and spotted an officer and another truck pulled over,” Alpine resident Dusty Jones explained. “Then I spotted them with a herd of elk out on the ice on the Palisades.”

The herd of cows and calves were on their way to the Alpine Feedground early Friday morning when they crossed the reservoir’s border, where there was usually dry ground. People driving by started calling the local Game and Fish and sheriff’s agencies.

“A number of people responded to it,” Fralick recalled, “and began to chip, chain saw, and ice auger a road through the ice to the coastline.”

People couldn’t cut a line all the way to shore since the ice was 2 feet thick in some spots, so they had to rope and lasso the elk and bring them onto the ice and to safety. It took about 45 minutes to complete the extraction.

Cow elk weigh between 550 and 700 pounds. Wet, they weigh even more.

Two calves who did not immediately recover because of exhaustion were loaded into a backhoe and taken to the feedground. Fralick said they were standing shortly after.

While herds of elk have been known to fall through the ice — around 30 killed two years ago on Palisades — this is the first time Fralick can recall so many elk being saved in his more than 25 years with the department.

Posted by Dusty Jones

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