Have you ever had an animal just show up on your front porch? That’s pretty much what happened to this Lithuanian farmer a few years ago, and the experience changed his life forever. The last thing he expected to see waiting for him when he came home one day was a moose, let alone one that was in a bad state of health. The man did what any kind-hearted soul would do and looked for a way to get the animal the care that it needed. Although he didn’t do it with a desire for any reward, he was repaid for his efforts many months later when the moose made a surprise return to his farm.
Moose aren’t known to act overly friendly with people. Although they’re not necessarily a violent animal, officials recommend that you keep your distance from a moose in the wild because attacks are a possibility. Your life is certainly at risk if one of these animals decides it doesn’t like you – they’re well-equipped to take you down. Nevertheless, when an animal is in need, it’s hard to just turn a blind eye. Compassion is one of the greatest assets a person can have, and as this farmer discovered, it can be a huge benefit to you. He would never have expected his life to turn out this way until he crossed paths with this young, vulnerable moose.
Lithuanian-born Erikas Plucas has always been a friend of nature. He lives out on a farm in the countryside where wild animals roam freely around the surrounding countryside. It’s a more simplistic life than you might find in the country’s big cities, but that’s part of what attracted Plucas to the remote area in the first place. Everything about being on the farm is peaceful and relaxed. At least, it was until he came home one day to something incredibly unexpected. It was just a normal day by all means, but then lying there by his front gate was something he’d never seen so close up before – a baby moose.
It’s not common for a moose to approach civilization so daringly like this. The animals can be easily startled, and this young creature was no different. It was frightened of Plucas, but the poor thing was in no condition to return to the forest. “She was starved, dirty, sad,” Plucas said of her upon their first meeting, “but was too weak to run away.” With great trepidation, the man approached the calf, who was no more than a few weeks old, in the hope that he could put the animal at ease. The moose was still in a great deal of stress, but Plucas’ gentle presence at least put it slightly at ease.
Seeing a young calf without its mother wasn’t something that Plucas considered usual behavior, and he feared that the worst had happened. Hunters acted in the forest around his farm, and it seemed likely that they’d shot down her mother earlier in the day. The young moose, terrified and looking for safety, managed to escape their sights and ended up outside Plucas’ farm. She was lucky that the farm owner came along when he did, because she wouldn’t have been able to get away if the hunters had found her.
No other choice
With no mother around to care for her, and the forest too dangerous a place for an animal in her condition, Plucas decided it was his responsibility to take action. The calf’s weak state meant that it wouldn’t survive much longer without any help, and the last thing the farmer wanted was for the animal to die. Being as careful as possible, he picked the moose up in his arms and carried her inside to find a way to resolve the situation. He’d no idea what that decision would lead to.
In his care
Alone and needing advice, Plucas picked up the phone and alerted Animal Services of the situation. While they agreed to come over, it wasn’t possible for them to do so until the following day. Plucas agreed, but it meant that he’d be responsible for the calf for the best part of 24 hours. He’d never taken on a task like this before and wasn’t sure what the best plan of action would be, so he decided to turn to his friends and family. Their advice wasn’t what he expected.
“It’s illegal, you should not do it,” were the words that greeted Plucas’ attempt at an act of kindness. He’d expected at least some moral support from those he cared about, but everyone was insistent that he should just “let nature take care of it.” Plucas was not a man who could sit by and watch a struggling animal in need, so he ignored the advice of his friends and family. It was up to him to look after the calf, even if for just one night.
A long night
Plucas went out in search of some food to help keep the young moose’s strength up. He collected a variety of leaves and sat by her side while he tried to persuade her to eat. The calf was hesitant, but he knew she needed them if she was going to make it through the night. Eventually, she relented. With her now eating and Plucas also feeding her some milk alongside the leaves, he was hopeful that she’d be strong enough to see through to the next day.
Although Plucas hoped that animal services would come along and take the calf off his hands, that wasn’t what happened. They told the farmer there was nothing they could do for her, because Lithuania doesn’t have any facilities for wild orphaned animals. The only course of action would be to call up local hunters and ask them to take care of her. Plucas knew that meant one thing – certain death. There was no way he was going to let an innocent animal be shot, so he asked to keep her.
The next step
Surprisingly, they agreed to allow the moose to stay in Plucas’ care, although warned that they wouldn’t be able to help him out in the future. With the animal now his sole responsibility, Plucas felt a mix of excitement and nerves. He knew things had to be this way, because the only alternatives would see the young moose end up dead. However, it was still a big task to take on. There was a chance the calf wouldn’t survive even with his help, but that was a risk worth taking.
With the calf now in his care, he felt that she needed a name. He settled on Emma, and over time the two formed a bond. However, caring for her was not easy. In the early days, looking after the calf was a great challenge because she required feeding every four hours or so. Not only that, but Emma was incredibly unsettled whenever Plucas left her alone. If he were to go back into his house, the calf would cry, and the sound broke the farmer’s heart.
By her side
Having her so distraught when he went to sleep wasn’t going to help either of them, so Plucas decided to sacrifice his comfort for the sake of his new friend. He started sleeping outside next to Emma so that she never felt alone. It wasn’t always the most comfortable night’s sleep, but he cared too much about the young calf. She’d lost her mother and was in a new, terrifying situation. He couldn’t blame her for wanting someone by her side all the time.
Eventually, Emma settled into her new home and relied less on Plucas during the night. She was still incredibly nervous, with the farmer saying that “She was afraid of everything but me.” However, with every new day, her confidence grew, as did her size. Her healthy growth was a testament to the love and care that Plucas had put in, but it also meant that she was slowly becoming an adult. Emma couldn’t stay with him forever, and he needed to do something to help reintroduce her to the wild.
Into the forest
Plucas began to go into the forest with Emma by his side. This was another challenge that made the young moose incredibly nervous. Plucas would go on walks with her every day, and Emma would accompany him, albeit reluctantly. The moose followed her friend everywhere he went, so she put on a brave face when it came to those walks, and things gradually got easier. Over time, she became more comfortable in her natural home, which the farmer took as a sign of things to come.
Teaching the basics
Aware that he only had so long until Emma left him to return to the forest, Plucas did all he could to teach the moose what she needed to know to be independent. He showed her what was safe and what was dangerous, and Emma picked it up surprisingly well considering the human-animal barrier. He also helped her to find food so that she’d be able to do it by herself when the time was right. But there was another equally important aspect he had to teach her.
Playing well with others
A crucial aspect for all animals – on two legs as well as four – is socializing with others. Through socializing we discover the world, and discover ourselves in the process. Taking Emma under his wing, it was important for Plucas that she learn to get along well with other animals, not just humans. And what better way to do that than to just make the introduction? Luckily, he had some friends willing to lend a hand.
Some feline friends
Plucas figured it would be a good idea to start small – literally – and so he introduced Emma to his two black-and-white cats. Emma seemed extremely curious about the little guys, and kept trying to get a closer look – and sniff. The cats, however, weren’t as interested in meeting her and kept bouncing away every time she got near. Nevertheless, notching up a partial success, Emma’s human handler thought it was time to graduate to more substantial beasts.
A horse is a horse
Some precautions were necessary for this one. While he could reasonably assume no harm would come to either party when Emma met the cats, horses were a different story altogether. They were much bigger, and much stronger, and if they got spooked they might react in unpredictable ways, and Plucas couldn’t have that. To set the stage for a controlled encounter, he led Emma to one side of a fence, with the horses on the other. This time, the tables were turned – Emma was the one who ran away spooked!
It seemed like all the hours and hours the doting dad spent on teaching Emma the ins and outs of life were beginning to pay off, and the more she grew, the more noticable the change in her began to be. It was almost imperceptible at first, but slowly but surely Emma grew a little more independent with each passing day. Before long, Plucas was faced with a very simple realization – it was almost time to let her go.
Emma started going out into the forest without her companion, something that was hard for Plucas to swallow. He knew this was the goal that he’d been working towards since the first day he’d taken her in. However, that didn’t make it any easier to deal with. Emma may have been dependent on him to begin with, but now a part of him had become dependent on her. For a man who had no kids of his own, he’d finally discovered the bond that parents have with their children.
Brave new world
One night, Emma didn’t come home. It was the start of a new adventure for the moose who had grown into a fully capable adult through Plucas’ loving treatment. The next step in her life was surely daunting for her, but thanks to her friend she felt prepared for anything. Now, she could live the life that the rest of her kind had. She wasn’t about to forget everything that Plucas had done for her, though. Their bond was unbreakable, so she decided to show him how much she cared.
Friends for life
Every day after her departure, Emma returned to the farm to spend a few hours with the man that had helped her when no-one else would. Together, they would go swimming, and Plucas would make sure to keep stocked up on treats. Despite Emma’s great strength, she would always be gentle when playing with her friend to make sure that she never caused him any harm. It’s that kind of concern that made their relationship so strong, but it didn’t ease a worry growing inside of Plucas.
Being an animal of the wild once again, Emma was at risk of the same fate that befell her mother. The thought of his beloved moose being shot by a hunter terrified Plucas, and he knew he had to do what he could to keep her safe. Although he couldn’t be by Emma’s side 24/7, he could try to stop anyone from hurting her. The farmer made contact with local hunters and invited them over for a chat, hoping to show them his friend’s gentle and loving spirit.
Change of heart
Plucas’ intervention turned out to be a roaring success. Upon seeing the connection that the animal had with her friend, the hunters decided to change their ways. Some agreed that they would not shoot her, while others said they’d stay away from hunting moose altogether. Plucas was surprised that a couple even said that they’d never go hunting again. For his relationship with Emma to have had such an impact felt amazing for the Lithuanian farmer, and he hoped this would mean a safe future for Emma in the wild.
Better safe than sorry
While he trusted the hunters, Plucas could never be 100 percent sure no harm would come to her from the ones he spoke to – or others he never even met. To make sure she was protected to the best of his abilities from both groups, he splashed some red paint on her so the hunters that knew about her would be able to recognize her in the wild. The other course of action? Supplying her with enough carrots so she just stayed on his farm on hunting days!
Plucas continues to receive daily visits from Emma, and the two enjoy their time together, although with less rough-housing than before. When Plucas last checked in, he believed that his friend might be pregnant, a sign that she was adjusting well to her new life in the forest. Even if she does now have her own family, though, the relationship Emma shares with Plucas will always be the most important to her. “I’m her world and she is mine,” the farmer admitted.
Reflecting on the time he was fortunate enough to spend with Emma, Plucas thought back to the famous words of Brazilian race car driver Ayrton Senna, who once said, “We must give a chance to everyone, at least a basic chance.” That was all he did – all he could do – for the moose, and he hoped with all his heart it would be enough for her to carry on life on her own. “Love your close ones and be kind to everyone you meet in your life,” he concluded.