Three men in Alaska were in for a surprise, when they thought they saw a skier trapped in the fallen snow from an avalanche.
The three men, Marty Mobley, Rob Uphus, and Avery Vucinich, were out snowmobiling in Hatcher Pass, Alaska, on December 28 when they passed an area covered with both moose tracks and ski tracks – something Mobley said he noticed as unusual because they didn’t often see skiers in the area.
Upon passing the area again about an hour later, the men saw an avalanche had come down, wiping out all of the tracks. They decided to stop and investigate just in case the skier had been trapped in the slide.
Mobley, whose best friend was killed in an avalanche in 1999, told the Alaska Dispatch News they were nervous about the possibility of more slides, but they checked the area out anyway.
“We had about 2,500 feet of mountain above us still,” he said. “Half slid, half didn’t, so we didn’t want to screw around a bunch there.”
The men were justified in being cautious – 35 people in the U.S. lost their lives in avalanches during 2014 alone.
As they got closer, they saw something brown sticking out of the snow and moving. Thinking it was a skier, they moved closer to investigate, and discovered it was a moose trying to escape the packed snow with only its snout and ears exposed. Miraculously, just enough of the moose’s snout was exposed for it to be able to breath.
“It looked like a guy’s arm at first because we were expecting to see a skier,” Mobley said. “But it was moaning and groaning and moving and we realized it was a moose, even though only his ears and some of its snout were sticking out of the snow.”
The men grabbed shovels and two of them began to dig the moose out of the snow as the other looked out for avalanches.
Uphus told Fox News that the men were concerned for their safety in being close to the large animal, which they estimated weighed close to 1,000 pounds. They all feared it could act erratically when freed, but decided to go ahead with the rescue.
“We couldn’t turn our back on it,” Uphus said. “It was in trouble and we had the chance to help it.”
Mobley said it did not move as they dug and, in fact, seemed to calm down as they began to clear the snow to rescue it.
“It didn’t even fight us,” he said. “It was like, ‘Help me. Help me.’ It was totally docile and let us touch it. It just (lay) there.”
After about 10 minutes of digging, the men were able to free about three-fourths of the moose’s body. Unsure whether or not it was injured, one of the men gently poked its hindquarters with a shovel to see if the moose would move.
Mobley said the moose stood up and towered over them, looking like “the abominable snowman because its fur was so packed with snow.”
He said the moose then looked at its rescuers, shook the snow off its fur, and ran off.
The men noted that the moose appeared to be uninjured, which they said surprised them considering it probably slid over 1,500 feet down the mountain when it got caught in the avalanche.
“I am an animal lover and I just couldn’t leave it there. Besides, we deal with a lot of avalanches and a lot of snow,” Mobley said. “That kind of karma is something we don’t pass up.”