Oh, deer! Double happy ending as fire department ice rescue saves one deer, second animal frees herself

by Keith Corcoran

  • <p>KELSEY CROUSE/RIVERPORT FIRE DEPARTMENT, PHOTO</p><p>A yearling doe gets warmed up inside a Riverport fire truck.</p>
  • <p>KELSEY CROUSE/RIVERPORT FIRE DEPARTMENT, PHOTO</p><p>Bambi&#8217;s about to be rescued by the Riverport volunteer fire department.</p>

It was a double-duty deer rescue for emergency responders March 7 as two Bambis found themselves stranded in Riverport's icy waters, but both incidents have happy endings.

Initial calls from the public came shortly before 8 a.m. when deer number one, estimated to be a two or three year old doe, was seen standing on ice within view of Riverport's fire station. The animal was about 130 metres from shore, toward the Highway 332 bridge that crosses Ritcey Cove.

As Riverport volunteer firefighters were assembling at the hall to deal with the incident, Fire Chief Craig Cook was told of a second, year old doe; but this deer punctured through the ice and was in the water. She was northwest of the same bridge and about 30 metres from land. Deer number two became the first priority.

Cook said personnel stood by at the station to keep watch on deer one while an ice rescue team suited up for deer two. It wasn't long before the doe near the fire station walked off the ice on her own and went into the woods, Cook said.

Meanwhile, firefighter Glenn Freeman adorned specialized gear and ventured out into the frigid harbour in challenging conditions to deal with the yearling.

"The ice was too thin to walk on and too thick to push through easy, so the guy we sent out had an awful job beating his way out to the deer," Cook told LighthouseNOW.

Cook said the deer kept trying to get her footing on the ice until about the time Freeman got in the water.

The animal didn't struggle as Freeman secured her with strap and guided her back to land. The rescue took about 20 minutes to carry out.

Cook said it took four people to carry her over an embankment and into the back of a rescue fire truck where firefighter wrapped the animal and cranked the heat. Cook said she was "borderline hypothermic."

Another 20 minutes elapsed before the deer attempted to stand. She had no obvious injuries and no limbs were broken. An official with the province's Department of Lands and Forestry advised firefighters to let the deer go if there were no signs of anything wrong, so that's what they did.

Firefighters drove their truck drove to another location and, Cook said, within 30 seconds of opening the doors, the deer "jumped out of the unit and went into the woods."

"When it ran away there was no stumble or anything," he said, adding with a laugh, "it just booked it out of there pretty quick."

Deer rescues are not an uncommon call for Riverport responders as they deal with animals that have run into trouble trying to swim from shore to shore or have fallen through ice while trying to evade predators. The end result typically is with the animal being euthanized because of injury but Cook was heartened that the March 7 incidents ended with the animals being okay.

"That, I think, was the first out of eight or nine [calls] that I've dealt with that [the animals] survived."

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