How a Case of Mistaken Identity Saved a Wolf From an Icy River in Estonia

After being rescued from the icy water, the creature rested calmly in the car. Robin Bridges

Members of an Estonian construction crew were working on the Sindi Dam on the Parnu River when they saw an animal swimming in the icy water. Believing it to be a dog in distress, they set out to rescue it.

The men cleared a path in the ice as they attempted to swim out to the animal.

The Rescue

"It was a bit difficult because the ice did not carry us and we could not get away from the shore," Rando Kartsepp told MNN in an interview (with the help of Google Translate). But the freezing animal "had an unbelievable strong will and reached the shore by breaking through the ice."

Where the ice was too thick for the struggling canine to swim, Kartsepp and his co-workers Robin Sillamäe and Erki Väli crushed the ice from the shore and were able to swim closer and pull the creature to safety.

wolf is dried after being rescued from the river
Kartsepp dries the icy animal after the river rescue. Robin Bridges

Kartsepp used a towel to dry off the wet and shivering animal, which had ice in its fur. As the men examined it, they realized it looked a little less like a dog than they originally thought — and more like a wolf. Either way, they knew it needed help. So they bundled up the animal and put it in the car to go to a veterinary clinic. Kartsepp let the sleeping canine rest on his legs, where it only lifted its head occasionally.

"In the car, the wolf was calm because it was exhausted from swimming in cold water," Kartsepp said. "The poor wolf had been falling through the ice."

'Every animal has the right to life'

icy Parnu River
The wolf was found in the icy Parnu River. Robin Bridges

Workers at the clinic weren't sure exactly what kind of animal they were treating. Finally, a local hunter who was familiar with the area's wildlife confirmed it was a young male wolf.

"At first, he was so done in for he didn’t resist at all. We simply kept him in this room," clinic director Tarvo Markson told Estonian newspaper Postimees. "But once he started to get an idea of the situation, I felt things might quickly take a turn for the dangerous. We got him into a cage."

The wolf was suffering from severe hypothermia and shock when he arrived at the clinic, but he was quickly nursed back to health later that day. He was fitted with a tracking device and released back into the wild.

"I can't say whether we would have been so bold (knowing it was a wolf, not a dog)," Kartsepp said. "But we would not have left the animal in any case because every animal has the right to life."