A helicopter pilot had just dropped off the hunters near the Norwegian border in northern Sweden late last week when he received a call for help as dusk was falling.
The frightened hunters reported seeing large shadows cast by what they assumed to be some of the roughly 900 brown bears known to lurk in the mountainous woods of Norbotten, the Aftonbladet newspaper reported.
But as the evening light was dwindling fast, the helicopter pilot explained he wouldn’t be able to fly back to rescue the hunters until the next day.
“I was on another assignment and we don’t fly in the dark so they had to sit in a little shelter, it’s like a little box,” pilot Johan Nordlund told the paper.
After spending the night gripped in fear over the prospect of being attacked by one of the bears outside, the hunters emerged the next morning to realize their terror had been for naught.
When they peered out from their shelter, they found themselves face to face, not with a pack of ravenous bears, but with three harmless cows that had apparently lost their way.
“I asked, ‘Are you guys drunk or what?'” helicopter pilot Nordlund told Aftonbladet, adding that he thought the hunters were joking when they called back to call off the rescue operation.
As the nearest Swedish cattle farm is more than 100 kilometres away, it’s likely the wayward cows hail from Norway, according to the paper.
Nordlund, who has seen the bovines on flights in the area in the ensuing days, last saw the visiting cows heading into a nearby national park.
“Maybe that’s what they came over to see,” he quipped.
He warned that the cows’ owner must be found and the livestock returned before winter’s chill takes hold in the region.
“They’ll die when winter comes,” he told Aftonbladet.