The call came in at 3 p.m. on Tuesday.
“Hey, do your NuCanoes go on the ice?" the voice asked.
“Yep," I answered, "I fish first ice in mine if it’s bad conditions. I just pull my NuCanoe along until I hit a bad spot and just spud it to where I want to go instead of paddling.” I answered. “Okay good. There’s a dog trapped on Lake Tomah, and I am wondering if you can come get it out. The DNR don’t care, the police don’t care and no one seems to be responding to get it out.” "Sure, I’m on my way, I’ll be there in a bit.” I replied. This was followed by two more calls came, each from different people, just as frantic, to get this critter some help.
When I got home to start my safety gear checklist, I quickly checked my Facebook page. I was tagged in 17 posts, all about this animal rescue operation.
Okay, I went from community service to community demand. I respect nature, but no animal needs to suffer a fate like that, especially in a spot within view of a hospital and a respite care facility where people could watch it struggle.
As badly as I wanted to help, I needed to go about this correctly. This is first ice and though I‘ve been ice fishing waters I know, this is Lake Tomah and deeper than what I’ve been on. So I loaded up my gear which included life jackets, 2 spuds, a Clam lift suit, plenty of rope and, lastly, yak trax. I then loaded up my NuCanoe and headed to Tomah to find and save the critter.
I got to the site to saw about 30 people milling around.
“I’m here to help. Where’s the dog?”
“Dog? What dog? There’s a pelican trapped on the ice.”
“No it’s a goose.”
“Well I’m here now so what can I do?” I asked.
“Well two people are out already with a boat, tub thing. And they are out of rope.”
I unloaded my safety gear and NuCanoe and grabbed my friend Jim. “Lets go out there and see what’s going on. We can lend a hand if they need it.” I said.
Jim and I started to spud our way out. Once we were away from shore, I checked the ice and deemed it safe enough to walk on. “If you take less than 3 whacks with the spud, we stop.” I told Jim.
“We’ll follow their tracks. It held them up, it’ll hold us up. But keep checking. If this goes south for them, we’ll end up helping them and the goose.”
As we reached the spot with the trapped animal, two people had caught the goose. Someone had handed Jim a blanket so we quickly wrapped the goose up and zipped it back to shore where the goose and party was welcomed with an array of applause and photos.
A quick inspection of the goose revealed that it had a broken wing. Presumably it was shot out and unable to fly. Apparently the goose was on the ice since Sunday and the authorities wouldn’t rescue it because they wanted nature to take its toll.
“There was a turkey vulture and a bald eagle trying to get to it today” said one of the bystanders. “That is why we (the public) were so urgent to get it rescued. We knew it only had a day or two left.”
Something itched at me after I left the ice. Looking back over the tracks of the first party that went out, I didn’t see any spud marks. I also realized that the rescuers were outside of their rope by about 40- to 50-feet. And looking in their Pelican boat, I noticed that there was no safety gear, no spuds or life jackets.
From WKBT in La Crosse:
I asked one of the rescuers, “Where was the goose trapped in the ice? I didn’t hear any chipping.” She replied, “It was just sitting there. Then it saw us and ran away when we got to it. So I chased it.”
This selfless act of heroism can’t go unnoticed, but before going out into the elements to save any animal, try to be smart about it. Never go out unprepared, without the right equipment and some training.
Had the ice been thinner or unstable, this story could have changed from a goose search and rescue to a human search and rescue, darn quick.
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Anthony Larson of Coulee Region Adventures has been a guide for over 5 years, and is a lifelong resident of the Coulee Region. Anthony shares the many adventures one can have in the Coulee Region of La Crosse.