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.
"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 animal 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 animal to safety.
Kartsepp dried the wet and shivering creature with a towel. He had ice in his fur and, as the men examined it, they thought it looked a little less like a dog than they had originally thought — and more like a wolf. Either way, they knew the animal needed help. So they bundled him up and put him in the car to go to a veterinary clinic. Kartsepp had the sleeping wolf on his legs, where the wolf only lifted its head occasionally.
"In the car, the wolf was calm because it was exhausted from swimming in cold water," Kartsepp says. "The poor wolf had been falling through the ice."
'Every animal has the right to life'
Workers at the clinic who cared for the animal weren't sure exactly what kind of animal they were treating. Finally a local hunter who was familiar with the area 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 it arrived at the clinic, but it was quickly nursed back to health later that day. It 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 says. "But we would not have left the animal in any case because every animal has the right to life."