ALPINE — The community of Alpine banded together this morning to rescue a herd of elk that had fallen through the ice and would have likely have drowned without intervention.
Just Another Day at Work
Seventeen-year-old Devan Wayne Thornock was one of the first on the scene. He was on his way to his masonry job with his boss at around 8:15 am when they noticed some odd shapes in Palisades Reservoir, just outside of Alpine.
When they pulled over to look, they discovered the shapes were a herd of 10-15 elk that had broken through the ice and were huddled together about 60 yards from the lake’s edge.
Thornock thought based on how exhausted the elk seemed, they had probably been there 30 minutes already.
The elk were likely on their way to the nearby National Elk Refuge, located just across the highway.
A Quick Rescue
A police officer had pulled up behind Thornock and his boss.
“We asked the police officer if we could go help the elk and he said we could,” said Thornock.
The three made their way onto the ice, checking the ice’s stability as they made progress out to the elk.
Using hammers and shovels, they chipped away a kind of canal for the elk to follow to shallower water.
The men put a rope around the animal’s head to lead them and lifted each elk back onto solid ground.
Thornock said the animals were exhausted and most couldn’t stand immediately after being fished out. But a couple of them still had enough wherewithal to deliver some stout kicks.
“I’m pretty sure I got kicked, but I don’t remember because my adrenaline was pumping,” said Thornock. “My arm is so sore.”
Throughout the course of the 40-minute operation, more and more people showed up to help. Thornock said maybe 40-50 people pulled over to help.
Thornock said they couldn’t have done it without the community coming together.
“It makes me feel pretty happy that so many people from Star Valley helped. Shows how much love we have for our mountains and our people,” said Thornock.
Thornock said it felt amazing to help the elk and work with his neighbors the way they did.
“I never pictured myself helping an elk get out of the water. I’d have never pictured that in my entire life,” he said.