Earlier this week, Dr. Karen Sciascia, an OB/GYN from Pennsylvania, was out enjoying a fishing trip along Big Hole River in Montana — but little could she have guessed that, while on vacation, she’d be called upon to deliver a different kind of baby to safety.
Riding on board of an inflatable raft, Sciascia and Twin Bridges river guide Seth McLean spotted a mother moose and what appeared to be a newborn calf beginning to cross in the heavy current in front of them.
“We were watching this adult female struggling back and forth, and we didn’t see a baby until we got close,” Sciascia told The Montana Standard. “Mom kept pushing – the current was pretty swift. The mother bolted and took off across the river. She was trying to get across the main portion of the channel, and even she struggled.”
After its mother finally managed to cross, the calf then attempted to follow. That’s when the two anglers saw the young moose, weighing just 25-pounds, get swept away in the rapids as mother watched helplessly from the other side.
“It was small and the river was swift,” says Sciascia. “We lost sight of the baby. It was hurtling downstream and was being pushed by the river. It was too small to ever fight the current.”
Without hesitation, Sciascia and her guide turned their boat and raced after the helpless animal, which was in imminent danger of drowning. Thankfully, the quick thinking pair arrived just in time to pluck the baby moose from the river.
“We found it with its little nose just above the water. We got up alongside it and I just grabbed the little bugger. I scooped it up from the river under its front legs,” says Sciascia. “I tried to hold it out, not wanting to get my scent all over it, but it was basically limp. It was breathing, and with my hand on its chest, I could feel its heart beating real fast.”
With baby safely now on board, the doctor and river guide paddled back upstream to where its parent had crossed and set the moose calf along the shore, shivering and scared, but no worse for the wear. A few minutes later, the mother moose emerged from the woods and was reunited with her offspring.
For Sciascia, whose day-job has her assisting humans in bringing new life into the world, the experience of safely delivering another kind of youngster to its mother was oddly familiar:
“Having delivered so many babies, it was like every other day to me, though it was a different modality. It was cool to be in the right place at the right time.”