May 26, 2022 12:18 pm
Zoe Buchli = Missoulian, Mont.
May 24—A Missoula firefighter saved an elk calf last weekend in New Mexico while battling a wildfire.
Crews from the Missoula Fire Department were checking in the Gascon area of the Hermits Peak and Calf Canyon fires on Saturday for residual heat. They came across the calf, who was alone in a pocket of badly burned forest, according to a post from Calf Canyon and Hermits Peak fires Facebook page.
“She was lying quietly in a six-inch deep layer of white ash, surrounded by the blackened remains of fir trees,” Missoula firefighter Nate Sink said. The crew named it “Cinder.”
Running into wildlife like this is pretty uncommon, Sink said in an interview with the Missoulian, but the efforts by locals to get Cinder rehabilitated were incredible.
Firefighters watched her for about an hour, hoping her mother would come back. When they didn’t find any other adult elk tracks nearby, teams got help down the road in Upper Rociada.
Local ranchers knew what to do. Their family veterinarian recommended re-hydrating the calf with a mixture of condensed milk and water.
One of the ranchers, Lisa Bartley, said their family dog was intent on mothering Cinder.
A local fish and game officer recommended Cinder be placed in the care of the New Mexico Wildlife Center in Espanola, New Mexico, the post said.
Cinder is now safe at the Cottonwood Veterinary clinic.
“She has gotten the hang of bottle-feeding, and a surrogate-mother elk at the refuge has taken on the duties of cleaning and bestowing affection on the little orphan,” the post said.
Cinder will spend about four months at the clinic before being eligible for release back into the wild.
The Bartley family said they’ll be glad to welcome Cinder back to the Upper Rociada area when she’s healthy enough to go back into the wild.
On Tuesday, Sink said the crew was on their way home to Missoula after about two weeks of fighting fires in New Mexico.
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