Volunteers braved the bitter temperatures Sunday digging a trench to free two horses trapped near a B.C. mountain, which some say were abandoned by an Edmonton hunter this past fall.

Local residents have been working day and night to dig a kilometre-long trench to the nearest trail to get the animals out to safety.

"We can't get equipment there because it would get stuck. We can't get a helicopter into them because we're risking them if we have to tranquilize them, so the only option seems to be to dig them out by hand," said volunteer Lisa Levasseur.

The two horses were found by snowmobilers in a remote area of Mount Renshaw about a week ago.

"They've obviously starved....they're missing quite a bit of hair from rain scold (and) they have a little bit of frostbite," said Levasseur.

Nearby residents say the animals were left behind by an Edmonton hunter this fall, but SPCA officials won't confirm who is being investigated.

"At this point in time we feel we have an owner identified and the matter is open for investigation so we're looking to collect information," said Kent Kokoska, from the SPCA.

A local Edmonton animal rescuer is commending the efforts being made by the B.C. volunteers.

Donna-Rae Coatta, who helped nurse more than 100 abused horses back to health after they were found on an Andrew, Alta. farm says while the task will be difficult, it is necessary.

"It would be really easy to say just euthanize them on the spot, but you know what, they're two animals that are fighting for their lives and you have to give them that credit," said Coatta.

SPCA officials won't say whether they are recommending charges to be laid.

For more information on the volunteer effort and how to donate call Spindrift Powersports at 250-569-0070 or click here.