A Kamloops rancher who orchestrated an elaborate helicopter rescue last week for three horses, a pregnant cow and three goats stranded near Spences Bridge says she had no other choice.
The operation is believed to have been the first helicopter rescue for livestock ever in Western Canada.
Kelly Kennedy of Sageview Rescue Centre is also a director for Horse Council B.C. She said she became aware of a handful of horses stranded last week on a property along Highway 8 near Spences Bridge.
“These three horses were stranded on a small patch of road — that was all that was left,” she said.
“We didn't have a lot of time because they'd been there five days with no food. And the owner was feeding them snow that he was trying to melt. So I just decided, ‘Well, why can’t we use a helicopter?’”
Kennedy said she found a chopper company at Kamloops Airport willing to take part, and she secured use of a specialized harness that she thought would work to lift the animals to safety.
On Friday morning, with the harness in hand, Kennedy took her son and his friend to go rescue the animals. Only one of the horses was big enough for the harness, Kennedy said. The other two were airlifted in a large feedbag and cargo net.
The next day, Kennedy and the helicopter pilot went back to rescue a pregnant cow and three goats from another nearby property.
“We just put the big net out on the ground, the helicopter cargo net, and the cow walked right into it,” she said.
“He just went and pulled her out. She just laid over in the net, and he delivered her, lowered her to the ground in the field [in Spences Bridge], and the whole town is there, and she just popped right up.”
Kennedy said she’s not sure yet how much the rescue efforts cost. She said Horse Council B.C. has a disaster fund that should cover it — but it might be dry now.
“I haven’t heard yet and I’m really scared to ask,” she said.
“I know it was an all-day thing, and I know that helicopter was $2,500 an hour. But that’s what it’s for — it’s to help in disasters.”
Footage of the rescues is going viral on TikTok, Kennedy said, which is spurring some donations. She encouraged anyone who wants to help out to donate money to Horse Council B.C.’s disaster fund.
“We’re getting some donations back, which makes me feel good because I really tanked it this time,” she said.
“In one day, I just depleted the whole thing. But what are you going to do? There was no other way to get them out other than to airlift them. ... If we didn't try it, the horses would have been put down. There was no other alternative, and we couldn't just let them starve there."