Elk NetworkFamily Spends Christmas Eve Day Rescuing Elk from Frozen River

General | December 29, 2021

You look out on a frozen river only to see a dozen elk treading water for their lives. What do you do? If you’re Jeff Stuart and Jordan Fish, you spread the word and take action to try to save them.

The two men saw the animals with their heads bobbing above the icy waters of the Kettle River near remote Barstow, Washington, approximately 95 miles north of Spokane. About 40 elk made it across the river but 12 fell through the ice.

“There were six cows and six calves in the water,” Rylee Stuart posted on her Facebook page. “One calf was already deceased before we started. Our best guess was that they had been there all night drowning, kicking each other, getting huge wounds from the ice.”

As word got out, more than 20 adults and nine kids got involved. They used ropes, kayaks, sleds, a winch and whatever else they could get their hands on to remove the animals one by one, place blankets on them and try to warm them by a fire.

“We laid with these elk, We did CPR on these elk. We cried over these elk. We were strong for these elk as a group,” wrote Stuart.

In the end, the team effort saved six of them – four cows and two calves. Six other elk, four calves and two cows, did not survive. The rescue party also sustained some injuries. Stuart speculates a possible broken hand and foot in addition to cuts, scrapes and a lot of tired, sore muscles.

“I would do it again in a heartbeat,” she told KXLY-TV.

A game warden allowed the families that gave their time and effort during the rescue to salvage the meat.

Go here to read Rylee’s Facebook account and to view a Tik Tok video of the incident.

(Photo credit: Rylee Stuart)