This battle between rutting moose in western Alaska was frozen in time.
Two bulls were locking antlers over a female when they tumbled into frigid pond water near Unalakleet, on the Bering Sea coast, and drowned, one scientist suggested. As water temperatures plummeted, it appears the pond froze around the entangled duo.
It’s unclear exactly when the fatal fight took place. But the pair remained preserved until Nov. 2, when middle school science teacher Brad Webster and a friend identified only as Chris spotted antlers poking through the ice as they walked around the grounds of a rural Bible camp where Webster volunteers.
“It was a very interesting experience,” Webster, 33, told The Associated Press.
“We were both kind of in awe,” he added to The Washington Post. “I’ve heard of other animals this had happened to, but I’ve never seen anything like this.”
Webster returned to the scene the following week with Bering Strait School District Student Activities Director Jeff Erickson, who took photographs of the entombed animals and posted the images to Facebook.
“Remarkable find outside of Unalakleet,” the 57-year-old wrote alongside the pictures, which soon went viral. “2 bulls got in a tussle over some ladies. ... and ended up being put on ice.”
The men returned with some friends to recover the two moose last week. The animals’ heads will be cleaned up, bleached and mounted for display at the Bible camp, which Webster helps to maintain. They are using some of the moose meat as trapping bait and dog food, according to the BBC.
Despite the appalling nature of the moose deaths, University of Alaska Fairbanks’ Biology and Wildlife Department Chair Kris Hundertmark said it may have been preferable to an even grislier alternative.
“These two fellows were unfortunate in that they probably fell into the water while locked together and drowned,” he told The Washington Post. “Then again, that is a much quicker way to go than by getting locked together in some forest and slowly starving to death.”