JD Cardinal (left) and Noah Janecke (right) hope the baby goat, now named Elsa, will find a good home at a sanctuary. /SUBMITTED

By Laura Keil

As Noah Janecke and JD Cardinal drove along Hwy 16, dipping into the Small River valley, Janecke spotted something odd: a baby mountain goat lingering on the side of the highway. At first JD didn’t believe him.

“I told him, ‘There’s no way you just saw a baby goat,'” JD recalls. “And so we turned around and went back and sure enough, the thing stood there right on the side of the highway on that rest area pullout and it almost didn’t run at all. It was kind of enthralled with the white pick-up, I think.”

JD managed to catch it. The tiny goat – not more than about 12 pounds – had recently suffered injuries to her head. She had a broken jaw, gashes, was missing teeth and was clearly lost.

Cradling the goat in his arms, JD climbed into the truck and the young men drove to Cardinal Ranch just a few kilometres up the road.” 

“She never made a peep actually; I just kind of cradled her and held onto her. And she did fine. But also she would have been in a ton of shock, I’m sure.”

JD’s mom Devanee Cardinal, a veteran horse breeder, set up a spot in the barn and they began to bottle feed her.

Meanwhile they left messages with the Conservation Service to find out what they should do and see if someone could pick up the goat. They knew it was illegal to possess a wild animal. 

“When she first came and she was kind of on adrenaline, she’s just springing off the walls in one of our horse stalls,” Devanee said. “She made friends with one of our dogs that really likes baby-everything. It was kind of nuzzling her and licking her and she would run under his belly. But she also thought that she was going to springboard off his back.”

One of the ranch dogs loves baby animals and helped welcome the baby goat to its intermediate home.

They watched her rocket off a square bale in the stall and nearly hop over the 10-foot enclosure. 

“She just was unreal,” Devanee said. “We thought, ‘how are you ever going to contain this creature?'”

But the shock and adrenaline soon wore off and the following day the goat lay limp, her breathing shallow and sharp.

“I was so sure she was going to die,” Devanee said. “But she was such a special creature to have, we tried everything and didn’t give up, even though it seemed like a lost cause. “

She began employing the lifesaving methods she reserved for her foals like inserting IV fluids and giving antibiotics. They also switched from milk replacer to real goat’s milk which JD and Noah tracked down, something recommended by a provincial biologist Devanee managed to reach on the phone.

Above: Karin Altoft (left), a Horse Developer from Ontario working at Cardinal Ranch, helps care for the baby goat held by JD. /SUBMITTED

Devanee woke up every 2-3 hours throughout the night to feed her and administer meds.

Their efforts worked. After another day, the goat had rallied. In fact, she trotted right out of the barn, when Devanee left the door open assuming the goat was too weak to move.

“It was quite miraculous,” Devanee said. “We must have just given her that treatment just in the nick of time.”

She said her family’s know-how with animals comes with their remote location.

“We know how to set up IV field fluids, and we know how to give injections and then take care of animals because you kind of have to do that when you’re located remotely. And the first day or two, we just couldn’t get a hold of anybody.”

As far as what happened to her to cause the injuries, they’ll never know for sure.

“We talked to a guy here who was an outfitter, and he said that if there’s something a little off with a baby, the Mom will knock it off a cliff,” Devanee said. “And often eagles take a dive and they’ll knock babies off a cliff because then they can just eat them I guess when they hit the ground.”

Once the baby goat was stable, a rep from Northern Lights Wildlife Society picked her up for transport to the rehabilitation centre in Smithers. Devanee learned wild goats will not accept a rehabilitated goat back into the herd.

In an interview Monday, Angelika Langen from the Wildlife Society said the outlook was looking positive for the little goat.

“She’s doing great. She’s eating well, and her body’s healing after the trauma that she went through. So we’re all happy with that. She just had a vet check yesterday and passed with flying colors.”

She says they aren’t sure where the goat will end up in terms of a sanctuary, but they previously sent a rehabilitated goat to a sanctuary in Whitehorse.

“They have a big enclosure with a group of mountain goats and so on. I don’t know if they would have room. But something like this, where they have a group of goats and she can be part of a family.”

This year’s Northern Lights rescues are named after Disney characters. The goat has been named Elsa.  

Langen says they are approaching their annual open house, the one day a year they allow visitors to the rehabilitation centre. Admission is by donation. At the moment, they have bears, deer, squirrels, weasels, foxes, the baby mountain goat and may possibly acquire a moose.

“I’m talking to you out of a truck that has two grizzly bears on the trailer that are going to fly to freedom tomorrow. “Anyone wanting to support the work Northern Lights does can visit www.wildlifeshelter.com for ways to contribute.