4 friends jump into action to rescue a moose from icy lake in northeastern Ontario

Four friends from the West Nipissing region of northeastern Ontario had a memorable end to 2022 when they rescued a moose that had fallen through thin ice.

Shawn Duquette says his military training helped him stay calm under pressure

A moose's head above a frozen lake.
Shawn Duquette says a female moose was trapped in a frozen lake for about 30 minutes before he and his friends arrived and rescued her. The friends had been hanging out at a camp near Manitou Lake northeast of Greater Sudbury, Ont., when they jumped into action Thursday. (Submitted by Shawn Duquette)

Four friends from the West Nipissing region of northeastern Ontario had a memorable end to their year when they rescued a moose that had fallen through thin ice.

Shawn Duquette, André Roberge, Scotty Simmons and Jean-Yves Paquette were hanging out at a camp near Manitou Lake, northeast of Greater Sudbury, on Thursday when they jumped into action.

Paquette's wife had heard that a moose was trapped on the lake.

"So we immediately rushed to the location with our snowmobiles," said Roberge.

They arrived to find a female moose almost fully submerged in the lake. Only her head was above water, through the broken ice.

Duquette said they heard the moose had been in the freezing water for around 30 minutes by the time they'd arrived.

Two men tie a green rope around a moose's neck as she is stuck in a frozen lake.
Scotty Simmons, right, and Jean-Yves Paquette tie a rope around the moose to help pull her out of Manitou Lake. (Submitted by Shawn Duquette)

Their plan was to cut a trench in the ice with their chainsaws toward the shore so the moose could climb out from a more shallow part of the lake.

"Scotty did a good job, you know, playing moose whisperer," Duquette said. "He was over there kind of keeping her calm."

Both Duquette and Simmons are retired from the military. 

Duquette said their training and experience, learning to remain calm in tense situations, was invaluable during the rescue.

"It wasn't really much of a thought process," he said.

"It's like, all right, something has to happen. We have to do something, and everyone just kind of jumped into action."

Roberge said that once they started to cut the trench, the moose was able to lift her front legs onto the frozen lake.

Two men take a selfie with a moose in the background. Only the moose's head is visible above a frozen lake.
Duquette, front, and André Roberge got to the scene quickly when they heard about the moose falling through the icy lake. (Submitted by Shawn Duquette)

They had a rope around her neck to help pull her out. Once her front legs were out, they all pulled to help her the rest of the way, and she managed to climb her way out. From the time they arrived, the rescue took around an hour.

Roberge said she looked fine once she got out of the water and was able to walk back to the nearby forest.

"It was pretty impressive," he said. "She kept looking at us as if she wanted to thank us for helping. So yeah, it was very exciting."

The friends said it was a moment they will never forget.

Duquette said, "2022 wasn't a good year, so when you could finish it off with something like that, then yeah, it's kind of a special moment for sure."

CBC reached out to the Ontario Ministry of Natural Resources and Forestry for comment on approaching a moose.

In an email Tuesday, the ministry said people should avoid going near or touching a sick or dead animal.

"If a cervid, such as a moose, approaches you, back off and look for a tree, fence or building to hide behind," the email said.

"The ministry recommends calling 911 or your local police if a wild animal poses an immediate threat to personal safety and exhibits threatening or aggressive behaviour."

With files from Bienvenu Senga