Firefighting crews saved an abandoned creature found laying in the ashes of a massive wildfire in New Mexico.
A Montana-based firefighter named Nate Sink said he noticed an elk calf on the ground of the charred forest during his patrol to extinguish hot spots, the Associated Press (AP) reported Wednesday.
“The whole area is just surrounded in a thick layer of ash and burned trees. I didn’t think it was alive,” recalled Sink, who was helping contain a wildfire that recently burned through 486 square miles, leaving destruction in its wake.
Although Sink looked for signs of the calf’s mother, he had no luck.
The animal, later named Cinder, was transported for treatment at a ranch and is currently recovering at a wildlife rehabilitation center in Espanola.
In a social media post on Monday, the Calf Canyon and Hermits Peak Fire shared a picture of the calf cuddled in the arms of one of its rescuers:
Another photo showed the animal laying motionless on the ground with its eyes half closed.
“I am so glad little Cinder has been rescued. I have tears in my eyes reading how you rescued this helpless, sweet, baby elk,” one follower commented.
“You all are amazing humans. True superheroes! Cinder will go on to make more elk thanks to your efforts!” another replied.
Meanwhile, veterinarian Kathleen Ramsay with Cottonwood Rehab said she placed the calf with a surrogate elk to grow up as nature intended. According to Ramsay, the animal came to them with his umbilical cord still attached.
She also said it would hopefully be released back into the wild later this year.
According to the National Park Service’s Pecos National Historical Park website, elk were among the biggest members of the deer family.
“Large males, called bulls, can weigh several hundred pounds and stand five feet at the shoulder. Females are called cows and are roughly half that size,” the site read.