MCBRIDE, British Columbia — 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 that 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 and faced almost certain death.
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.
She said about 40 or 50 people took part in the rescue over the course of a week.
Stutz said the horses were discovered on Dec. 15 by two local residents. Logan Jeck and a friend stumbled across the horses while out looking for some snowmobiles left behind by tourists who had gotten stuck 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 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 out an escape pathway through 6-foot-deep snow. Stutz said the volunteers had to dig a trench just over a half a mile long through the brush along the mountainside.
Stutz said she and her friends spent so much time and effort on the rescue that they didn't have time to prepare for the holidays, but no one is complaining.