A quartet of anglers fishing a lake near Thunder Bay caught a lot more than they bargained for this past spring. Their unexpected catch? Two baby moose. 

On the Sunday of the May long weekend, Niall McKee, 25, and his friend Claire Polari, 24, were in one boat jigging for walleye close to a small island on Shebandowan Lake, as his brother Eric, 23, and Eric’s girlfriend, Stephanie Fullum, 24, fished in another boat nearby.

The McKees have a family cottage on the lake, and were were keen to wet a line since the ice had just left that day, Needless to say, the water was frigid. Around 2 in the afternoon, Eric caught a pike and the brothers were laughing loudly when they heard a crash on the island. They turned to see a cow moose jumping into the icy water and quickly swim to the mainland about 100 feet away. Shortly after, a small calf jumped in to follow her.

Niall says they all watched the calf from a distance of 50 feet or so, until it began to struggle and its head started to dip below the surface. Eric and Stephanie motored toward the troubled animal, which turned and started swimming wild-eyed straight toward their boat. Eric hauled the cold, soaking calf from the water and dropped it off on the mainland shore. 

“The mother had booked it,” Niall says,  “She was probably another 100 feet down the shoreline.” That's when Niall heard a second calf calling plaintively from the island.

“I went onto the island to round the moose up because I figured the mother wouldn’t go back to get it,” Niall says, “I wanted to at least bring it back to the other calf, to give it a chance.” 

An experienced outdoorsman, Niall thinks the cow likely walked out on the ice to the island when she was pregnant. He figured the calf was probably only a week old.“I gave it a couple of pets like I was petting a dog and I tried to calm it down since it was shaking. Then I said, ‘all right, here we go’ and I picked it up under both its legs, and walked to the boat. Claire held it while we crossed the narrows and then I put that one onto the shore.” 

Niall says the first calf was still in shock from the cold so he dried it off with his jacket, then he and Claire paddled away as the mother came out of the bush to look at them as they were leaving.

They watched as the mother made her way up the bay to be with her calves. "It was such a neat experience to help these two babies out," Niall says. And then they continued fishing. “We caught about 13 fish that day,” Niall says. “It was a good day.” The rescued calves and their mother would undoubtedly agree. 

image 01 Eric McKee holds the leg of the calf moose he pulled from the frigid water of Shebandowan Lake


image 03 Stephanie Fullum holds one of the rescued calves before reuniting it with its mother