Newborn Elk Calf Rescued From Ashes of Wildfire

Firefighter deployed to New Mexico spotted Cinder in a burned forest
By Newser Editors and Wire Services
Posted May 26, 2022 7:10 PM CDT
Newborn Elk Calf Rescued From Ashes of Wildfire
In this photo provided by Nate Sink, a newborn elk calf rests alone in a remote, fire-scarred area of the Sangre de Cristo Mountains near Mora, N.M., on Saturday.   (Nate Sink via AP)

(Newser) – Firefighters have rescued an abandoned newborn elk calf found amid the ashes of the nation's largest wildfire as calving season approaches its peak in New Mexico and fires rage across the American West. Missoula, Montana-based firefighter Nate Sink said Tuesday that he happened upon the motionless elk calf on the ground of a fire-blackened New Mexico forest as he patrolled and extinguished lingering hot spots. "The whole area is just surrounded in a thick layer of ash and burned trees. I didn't think it was alive,” said Sink, who was deployed to the state to help contain the wildfire, the AP reports.

By Wednesday, the fire had spread across 486 square miles and destroyed hundreds of structures. It's one of five major uncontained fires burning in New Mexico in extremely dry and windy conditions. More than 3,000 firefighters battling the biggest blaze have made significant progress halting its growth in recent days ahead of more dangerous fire conditions forecast to return into the weekend, crew commanders said Wednesday night. Bruno Rodriguez, an interagency meteorologist, said gusts should continue to increase by about 5mph per day, from 25mph Thursday to as strong as 50mph by Monday. "It's definitely going to be a critical fire weather pattern, and unfortunately it's going to be fairly prolonged and persistent," he said.

Wildlife officials in general discourage interactions with elk calves that are briefly left alone in the first weeks of life as their mothers forage at a distance. Sink said he searched diligently for traces of the calf's mother and found none. The 32-pound singed bull calf, dubbed Cinder, was taken for care to a nearby ranch and is now regaining strength at a wildlife rehabilitation center in Espanola. Veterinarian Kathleen Ramsay at Cottonwood Rehab says she paired Cinder with a full-grown surrogate elk to be raised with as little human contact as possible. Ramsay said she hopes the calf can be released into the wild in December after elk hunting season. The strategy has worked repeatedly with elk tracked by tags as they rejoined wild herds. "They do elk things, they don't do people things,” said Ramsay.

(Read more wildfires stories.)

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