Baby moose rescued from Montana river

Baby moose rescued from Montana river
Karen Sciascia of Red Hill, Pa., holds a baby moose she and Twin Bridges guide Seth McLean rescued in the Big Hole River in southwestern Montana (Four Rivers Fishing Co.)

Karen Sciascia has had her share of big catches over the years during fly fishing trips on the Big Hole River in southwestern Montana.

Her biggest, though, came last weekend: a 25-pound baby moose.


Sciascia, a Pennsylvania gynecologist, and Four Rivers Fishing Co. river guide Seth McLean were in a motorless drift boat when they spotted a cow moose on a bank downriver.

The moose appeared to be trying to push a much smaller moose, a baby, toward the water. The baby would walk out on the rocks only to retreat or fall down.

Finally, the mother seemed to become frustrated, Sciascia said. She walked out into the water and started swimming into the current. A labored swim brought her to the other side and she vanished into the woods.

The baby stepped into the river to try to follow her. But the swift current overpowered the frail animal.

"I saw it take a tumble and start heading downstream," Sciascia told the Los Angeles Times.

Sciascia and McLean followed the animal downriver and "saw its little nose reaching above the water," about to go under. By then, Sciascia's training as a gynecologist had kicked into gear – don't panic.  Just react.

The boat drifted up, and Sciascia reached over the bow and picked the animal up by the scruff of its neck and its hind legs.

Limp and frail, it looked almost newly born. She held it slightly away from her body, not wanting to leave too much of a scent.

McLean started rowing back upstream. He pulled the boat into an eddy, a calm part of the river out of the reach of rapids. The calf began to regain consciousness, Sciascia said.

They snapped a cellphone photo, just to prove the story was real.

At that point, the mother emerged from the woods. McLean maneuvered the boat toward the opposite shore, and Sciascia placed the calf on a nearby sandbar. He was "crying like a little puppy," she said.

Once the mother started toward the calf, McLean and Sciascia took off downriver -- a life saved.

Sciascia has delivered thousands of babies in more than two decades as a gynecologist. And as a fishing and hiking aficionado, she has a second house in Montana. But her two worlds hadn't merged until last weekend.

"Lots of human babies, but no wildlife," Sciascia said.


Since the Missoulian newspaper broke the story Thursday, Sciascia has been flooded with calls, texts and questions, even from some of her patients.

The rescue has also been a publicity boon for Four Rivers Fishing Co. in Twin Bridges. Ever since the photo appeared on the business' Facebook page on Wednesday, more than 14,000 people have "liked" and shared the post.

As to whether it was the right call to interfere with nature, Sciascia said they made a decision based on life or death.

"We both looked at each other – 'This baby's going to die,'" Sciascia said. "No way is it going to come out of that by itself."


Twitter: @devkelly17