Alberta rancher does C-section, delivers pronghorn after mom hit by car

Hally Pahl, 10, holds Saamis, a baby pronghorn that her dad Tyrel delivered via emergency C-section on a road outside Medicine Hat, Alta. (Tyrel Pahl)

Rancher Tyrel Pahl was driving to work just outside Medicine Hat, Alta., when he saw a pronghorn in distress, lying on the side of the road. He pulled over.

Pahl had a sinking feeling that he knew what had happened. The pronghorn had been trying to cross the highway and been struck by a vehicle.

“I saw that she needed to be euthanized,” he said Friday in an interview on the Calgary Eyeopener, “and she was pregnant.”

That’s when Pahl made a fast decision.

“I ran home and grabbed a scalpel,” he said.

When he returned, officers from Alberta Fish and Wildlife were on hand.

“After they euthanized her,” he said, “we quickly dragged her into the bottom of the ditch and cut her open and we were able to bring the baby out alive.”

Saamis was delivered on a roadside by Tyrel Pahl, after the fawn’s mother was hit by a vehicle and fatally injured. (Tyrel Pahl)

‘It goes with being a rancher’

Pahl had never performed a C-section delivery on an animal or anything else but had heard stories of other ranchers who had.

“[In 2015], when we had  BSE [bovine spongiform encephalopathy] in this province, if a cow couldn’t have a calf … sometimes guys would shoot her and bring out the baby calf, post-mortem.

“So I’ve heard of it happening, but I’ve never done it before.”

The delivery part went smoothly, Pahl said.

“When it’s post-mortem, there’s not a whole lot that can go wrong, I guess. But it was something that sort of goes with being a rancher: you’re trying to get that baby out if you can.”

It didn’t take long, however, before Pahl could tell something was wrong.

“He was actually pretty close to dying. He had breathed in some fluid,” he said.

That’s when Pahl’s rancher skills rose to the occasion once again.

“One thing you can do — and we do this with calves as well — is just sort of irritate that nose,” he said. “Get them coughing and sneezing a little bit.

“So I just grabbed a couple sticks of grass and kind of just poked it up into his nose to kind of irritate him and he gets sort of coughing and sputtering and yeah, he started to breathe.”

Hally and Evyn Pahl named the baby pronghorn Saamis, which is the Blackfoot name for Medicine Hat. (Tyrel Pahl)

Breathing normally

After a while, the newborn pronghorn started to breathe normally, at which point the fish and wildlife officer took it to a vet’s clinic in Medicine Hat.

“They were able to warm up and start feeding him,” Pahl said. “I think we were starting to feed him within a couple hours — maybe less,” he said.

Back home at the ranch, after hearing the story, Pahl’s two daughters, Evyn and Hally, aged 8 and 10, asked to see it. So later that afternoon, Pahl took the girls for a visit to the vet’s clinic in Medicine Hat.

“They got to watch him being fed — and actually [Alberta] Fish and Wildlife gave permission to let the girls name him.”

What did they choose?

“We named him Saamis, which is the First Nations word for the city of Medicine Hat,” he said.

No sooner had Saamis been named after Medicine Hat, he was getting ready to leave it.

It turned out that within an hour of arriving at the vet’s clinic, the Saskatoon Zoo offered Saamis  a new home.

“They’re pretty excited he’s a little buck,” Pahl said. “They’ve actually got a little harem there waiting for him and just two at the zoo there. They’re excited to get some new genetics.”

“Saskatoon has a harem waiting for him?” asked Eyeopener host David Gray.

“That’s what I’ve been told,” Pahl said. “Yes.”

“In terms of happy endings,” Gray said, “it’s about the best I’ve ever heard.”

With files from the Calgary Eyeopener.

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