MCBRIDE, B.C. – Two frostbitten, emaciated horses were recovering inside a warm barn on Saturday thanks to volunteers who spent the week before Christmas digging the animals out of snow in the mountains of northeastern British Columbia.
Birgit Stutz said Saturday the rescuers cheered when they finally finished digging a half-mile escape route through the snow for the animals. The horses had been abandoned by a hunter.
Stutz said the horses eagerly accepted being bridled and seemed to know they were safe as volunteers led them on a seven-hour hike down the mountain in freezing temperatures Tuesday.
Stutz said about 40 or 50 people took part in the rescue over the course of a week.
“It was a big effort,” Stutz said.
Stutz said the horses were discovered on Dec. 15 by two local residents. They were above the tree line and had no shelter at first.
Logan Jeck and a friend stumbled across the horses while out looking for some snowmobiles left behind by tourists who had gotten stuck during a trip to the back country on the side of Mount Renshaw – about 750 miles northeast of Vancouver.
At first, the young men thought the most humane thing to do would be to shoot the emaciated horses to put them out of their misery.
“They went up to assess the situation and to decide whether they were going to shoot them or give them hay. They decided they had enough life in them so that’s when it all started,” Stutz said.
Over the course of a week. a growing number of residents trudged up the mountain with shovels in hand to dig an escape pathway through 6-foot-deep snow.