On Friday evening, Utah hunting guide Dave Beronio posted footage of himself rescuing a moose calf from a wire entanglement in the Uinta Mountains on Oct. 2. With both his client and the calf’s unhappy mother looking on, Beronio worked quickly to free the calf from what would have otherwise been certain death.
“We were going out to an area where we were going to glass for elk, and I see a cow moose with a very small bull. So I stop the truck to give the client a chance to see a moose up close,” Beronio, 48, tells Outdoor Life. “When we stopped, they were only 30 yards away from the truck. And the mom was watching us, but she wouldn’t move. When I looked over the hood, I saw the body of the calf laying under this fence. He had been in my blind spot. And I realized that was why mom was standing right there and not moving.”
At first, Beronio thought the calf was dead. Only when he rubbed the calf’s face did he discover the young male was still alive, although he likely wouldn’t be for much longer if Beronio didn’t intervene. The calf had caught a front hoof in the wire fence and twisted himself into an awkward, immobile position. His head was downhill, his left front leg was twisted up in the air, and his rear hind leg was caught between the left front leg and his barrel. If starvation or restricted blood flow didn’t claim him first, nearby predators would have.
To make matters trickier, Beronio had to watch over his back while he worked. The angry cow stalked back and forth, responding to her calf’s distress calls.
Beronio, who has been guiding for 17 years, usually keeps wire cutters in his truck. But he had taken a different vehicle out on this particular day and was forced to get creative. First, he tried to wedge a hatchet between the two pieces of wire to create some space for the calf to wiggle out its large hoof. But when that didn’t work, the calf let out more bone-chilling distress calls to the nearby cow, who approached Beronio ready to charge.
“Mom had jumped the fence and, at one point, she came running down the road at me and stopped,” Beronio says. “I chased her off two or three times and went right at her, trying to spook her off, but then one time she put her ears down and came in a little too close. I know they can catch some speed pretty quick and they can do some damage and kill people, so I was trying to take that into consideration. I told my client to get behind the door of the vehicle, just to be in a safe place.”
Eventually, Beronio was able to drive a rock between the wires to create the space necessary to extract the calf’s hoof from the tangle. He slowly worked the hoof out of the wire’s tight grasp, looking over his shoulder at the cow the whole time. Once he worked the hoof free, he dragged the calf out from under the fence and immediately started trying to work blood flow back into the calf’s body. By this point, the cow had calmed down and waited for her calf to stand up again.
On shaky legs, the calf eventually made it to his hooves. The front left leg looked more shaky than the others, but after a few minutes, he reunited with the cow and started suckling before the two walked over the rise together.
“I really try to immerse the client in the little intricate details,” Beronio says. “It’s not just the hunt, it’s everything going on around us. If you pay attention, you can really appreciate the wild places that we’re in. We shot his elk a few days later, but he said his whole trip was made by watching what happened.”
This wasn’t Beronio’s first run-in with young wildlife trapped in fences. He had to snip some wire in October 2020 to free an elk calf that he and a different client had watched get trapped as a herd barreled across the road. This calf was only trapped for a few minutes and sprang right back up after getting freed to rejoin the herd, unlike the moose calf who required a 10-minute massage before it could stand again.
“I guide a lot of clients, I hunt a lot myself, I’m part of a lot of kills. But in the back of my mind, I was like ‘I wonder what this little animal is thinking. I wonder if it’s going to remember this,'” Beronio says. “Getting up close to an animal you’ve killed is one thing. But when an animal is breathing on you, and looking into your eyes, and blinking, that’s something else.”