STODDARD — Peering out his bedroom window shortly after Friday’s sunrise, Richard Fadden saw a moose splayed out on the pond next to his house off Route 9, stranded on the ice and seemingly resigned to its fate.
He called emergency officials at about 7:30 a.m., setting in motion a rescue effort by N.H. Fish and Game that ultimately saved the life of the year-and-a-half-old female.
According to Fish and Game, Cheshire County dispatch and N.H. State Police also received several calls from commuters driving along Route 9 who saw the stranded moose.
Fish and Game Lt. Bill Boudreau got the call at 8:15 a.m. and assembled a team to head in for a rescue.
Ted Walski, a Fish and Game wildlife biologist from the department’s Keene office, was first on the scene, before Boudreau and other officials arrived shortly after 9 a.m.
Fadden was waiting by the pond, worried that the moose might have broken through the ice and become partially submerged.
Once Walski determined the moose was struggling to stand up on the ice but not submerged, an even greater concern grew among the group: that the young moose would have to be put down.
Boudreau said Friday afternoon the chances of a moose or deer surviving an ordeal like this are 50-50.
The struggle to get up on the ice could dislocate the animal’s hip, which would prevent it from walking anywhere.
If the animal cannot get up on its own, Fish and Game will leave it for a few hours, then come back to see if there’s any chance it can regain its footing.
If no movement is possible, the animal is euthanized, Boudreau said.
And in this case, when Boudreau arrived in Stoddard, he wasn’t optimistic about the moose’s chances of survival.
“So when we first took a look at it, it didn’t look good,” he said. “We didn’t have high hopes. We couldn’t get its back legs up.”
Boudreau said the team’s assessment determined the moose, estimated at about 6 feet tall and just under 300 pounds, had likely been stranded on the ice since well before dawn.
But eventually, Boudreau and Fish and Game Sgt. Delayne Brown of the Hopkinton office devised a plan to get the moose to safety.
Using a tow strap, Brown and Boudreau crept onto the ice, wearing spikes on their boots and flotation coats, to gently wrap the wide, heavy-duty leash-like cord around the moose’s neck.
Boudreau and Brown avoided tying the 5-inch-wide strap with a knot, electing instead to gently wrap it around the moose’s neck so if she ended up making a run for it once on shore, she would not be choked or suffer a neck injury from the device.
The strap secured, Boudreau and Brown pulled on each end and quickly paced backward, the moose in tow.
A video taken by Fadden shows the rescuers scoot across the remaining 50 yards of the pond at a rapid clip before the moose is pulled to shore.
Then, Boudreau said, the Fish and Game team waited several minutes. Finally, the moose stood up.
Boudreau and his team kept their eyes trained on the moose for signs of serious injuries and sought to prevent it from crossing Route 9 or going back onto the pond.
“We kind of harassed her to go towards the woods,” Boudreau said.
Half an hour later, the moose began making her way down a nearby trail, eventually sauntering out of view, with no noticeable injuries, according to Fadden and Boudreau.
“Any time you can save a moose, especially if it’s a female moose, who next year, may be ready to start producing its own calves, is a good thing if you can keep the line going and prevent that calf from dying, and hopefully it will produce more moose next season,” Boudreau said.
Since its peak in the mid-1990s, the moose population has declined to about 3,500 in New Hampshire, according to Fish and Game.
Boudreau urged people to call Fish and Game or State Police if they spot an animal stranded on ice, and to wait for officials to assess the situation from there.
Especially with moose, given their size, venturing onto the ice to assist without professional training could end badly, Boudreau said.
As the rescue wrapped up Friday morning, Fadden said he was thrilled the moose did not have to be put down, and came away heartened by the rescue effort put together by Fish and Game and with a new “number one” nature experience as a lifelong Granite Stater.