Lifestyle & Human Interest

Firefighters Find Newborn Elk While Battling Massive Wildfire: 'Didn't Think It Was Alive'


New Mexico has been stricken with a series of massive wildfires that have proven difficult to control. Firefighters from states away have come to New Mexico’s aid, battling multiple blazes over the past few weeks.

One fire that’s still raging is the Hermits Peak and Calf Creek Fire. It has burned over 300,000 acres and was only 42 percent contained as of Tuesday, according to the Santa Fe New Mexican.

Authorities hope that a change in weather — cooler temperatures and less wind — will help them finally stamp out the fire, but there’s no guarantee as they continue their fight.

On May 21, though, a visiting fire crew from the Missoula Fire Department experienced a small reprieve in the form of a heartwarming find.

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As they canvassed the Gascon area, looking for any remaining hotspots, they came across a newborn elk nestled in a bed of ashes.

“She was lying quietly in a six-inch deep layer of white ash, surrounded by the blackened remains of fir trees,” firefighter Nate Sink said, according to the Facebook page for the Calf Canyon and Hermits Peak Fire.

“The whole area is just surrounded in a thick layer of ash and burned trees,” Sink elaborated, according to ABC News. “I didn’t think it was alive.”

Hoping the mother would come back for her calf, the crew left the baby alone and watched from a distance for over an hour, but there was no sign of mom or any tracks in the area.

Locals Lisa and Carl Bartley, who run a ranch in Upper Rociada, took in the newborn and contacted their veterinarian for help. The vet advised they feed the baby a mixture of condensed milk and water, and their dog helped, too.

“Our dog, Brylee, was intent on doing his best to mother little Cinder,” Lisa Bartley said.

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The calf, named “Cinder,” was eventually transported to Cottonwood Veterinary clinic and has been paired with a surrogate elk at a wildlife refuge near Las Vegas, New Mexico.

If all goes well, in four months the little calf will be big enough to release back into the wild, though veterinarian Kathleen Ramsey said they’ll probably wait until December to avoid elk-hunting season.

The Bartleys have let rehabbers know that they would be delighted to have Cinder released in Upper Rociada once she’s independent enough to fend for herself.

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