Erik Brodén, his wife Karin and twin daughters Tyra and Brita found the elk sprawled out on the ground on Karin's parents' farm in Eskilstuna, central Sweden, almost unconscious and dehydrated.
How the animal got there remains a mystery, but it was clear that it had been separated from its mum and was in dire need of care.
“I could see pretty quickly that it needed help. It couldn't even lift its head up, or open its eyes,” Brodén, who turned to a zoo close to his home in the Hälsingland region for advice, told The Local on Thursday.
“We gave it water and then we rang Järvzoo animal park, and they gave us some advice on what we needed to do. So we made up this mixture that you give to lambs. It went quite well,” he said.
Brodén, who usually tours Sweden as a folk rock musician, kept the little elk at the farm overnight to let it recover, with his daughters naming it 'Brownie Brodén'.
The next day, the family used horse blankets to create a cozy corner for Brownie in the tour bus and drove some 350 kilometres north to the animal park which had agreed to take care of him. But he did not want to be alone, and Karin had to go and sit in the back to keep him company. Eventually he fell asleep in her lap.
“From the start it was a bit sceptical, but after the food and everything it looked for contact with us; when we walked away from it, it started to call for us,” said Brodén, admitting that it was not easy to let go of the new family member.
“It was heartbreak. It was a small, helpless animal, you know? It tugs at your heartstrings.”
Erik Brodén and Brownie the elk on board the tour bus. Photo: Private
The story, which took place over the weekend, went viral in Sweden on Thursday after it was first written about by regional newspaper Hela Hälsingland. And Brodén said he did not mind the attention.
“It's really good for me, I'm in the public eye because I play music, so personally it's great. On the other hand, the fact that an elk calf that was separated from its mum is getting so much media attention in comparison to other stuff going on in the world, you can question. But it's a sweet story, and obviously very fun.”
By Emma Löfgren and Lee Roden.