Controlled avalanches are generally set off in order to prevent larger ones from happening, but that doesn’t mean they’re not without danger.
Jesse Dahlberg was watching as railroad crews using explosives set off a series of small avalanches near the town of Field in southeastern British Columbia when he noticed a lone elk directly in the path of the next manmade snow tsunami.
Although he hoped the elk might be able to outrun the oncoming peril, the animal was engulfed in a wave of white as the avalanche coursed around it on its way down the mountainside.
“I didn’t know how big the avalanche was going to be so I was hoping for the best… When I saw it, I thought there’s no way that elk is going to survive,” Dahlberg told CBC News. “That wall of snow caught up to that elk so fast and just blasted it.”
Enlisting the aid of a friend, Dahlberg decided to drive over to see if there was any chance the elk might have survived. After parking at a spot close to where the elk was felled, they followed a trail of debris uphill.
Miraculously, Dahlberg saw a portion of the animal’s face peering out from its snowy prison. The elk was also totally immobilized by the weight of the snow in which it was buried.
Once Dahlberg realized the elk was alive, he knew they’d have to act quickly to extricate it. He could only hope that none of its limbs had been fractured by the impact of the avalanche.
Dahlberg began digging with his hands, sending his friend back to their vehicle for a shovel.
Working steadily, it took them only 15 minutes to dig the elk’s hind legs free. Then, with a little prompting, the hapless critter was able to shake its way clear and walk out of the snowdrift.
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“I put my arms up and started cheering because I was so excited that it was alive,” Dahlberg said. “I was so happy.”
Rather than take flight, the forest denizen stood by calmly gazing at its rescuers as they left the scene as if saying a silent “thank you.”
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To which Dahlberg might have rightly replied, “You’re very welkcome.”
(WARNING: Jesse’s video of the avalanche happening contains lots of swearing.)
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