Photo by Estonian Union for the Protection of Animals

When rescuers saved what they thought was a distressed dog from a frozen river earlier this week, they were stunned to discover that the animal was not quite what it appeared to be.

The “dog” was first spotted by three construction workers who were laboring at the Sindi dam in Estonia last week. The animal appeared to have fallen through the frozen river and was struggling to escape the surrounding ice.

The workers rushed to the side of the river and began clearing the ice so the animal would have a path to the shore. After swimming about 320 feet (100 meters), they hauled the exhausted beast to shore and wrapped it in a towel.

Since the animal was stiff and covered in ice, the men brought the massive animal to their car so it could warm up in the heat.

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“We had to carry him over the slope. He weighed a fair bit,” one of the rescuers told Postimees. “He slept on my legs [in the car]. When I wanted to stretch them, he raised his head for a moment.”

After calling animal control for further instruction, they were told to bring the dog to a nearby clinic where it was cared for by the Estonian Union for the Protection of Animals (EUPA).

Photo by Estonian Union for the Protection of Animals

Though the animal was docile, the workers were suspicious of its true nature – and as it turns out, their suspicions were correct: after consulting a local hunter, animal control workers confirmed that the men had actually rescued a 1-year-old wolf.

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The wolf was experiencing dangerously low blood pressure levels from the cold, which may have contributed to its subdued behavior; but after being treated for hypothermia and shock, it started to recover.

For the protection of the wolf and veterinarians, the wolf was placed in a cage until it was well enough to be released back into the wild.

Photo by Estonian Union for the Protection of Animals

Upon paying for the wolf’s treatment, EUPA worked in collaboration with the Environmental Agency in order to fit the animal with a tracking collar so they could follow its movements.

To their delight, EUPA reported that the wolf had successfully traveled over 43 miles (70 kilometers) from its release location within days of being reintroduced to the wild.

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“We are so happy for the outcome of the story, and wish to thank all the participants — especially these men who rescued the wolf and the doctors of the clinic who were not afraid to treat and nurture the wild animal,” said EUPA, according to BBC.

“The wolf recovered from its brush with death within the day and, after being fitted with a GPS collar by researchers from the national environmental agency, was released back into the wild.”

Photo by Estonian Union for the Protection of Animals

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