Two members of a British Columbia search crew carried out an unusual rescue this week after they received a call about a deer stranded on an ice-covered lake.
Mike Ritcey and a fellow member of Kamloops Search and Rescue received a call from a woman who spotted the deer on Tunkwa Lake, about 80 kilometres west of Kamloops.
The pair sprang into action on Monday and decided to personally help the deer, although it wasn’t an official Kamloops Search and Rescue operation.
“It was the right thing to do,” Ritcey said, adding the doe was on the ice for at least 30 hours. “When they get out on the ice and they lay there, it’s a bad deal. The birds eat them alive.”
He said he took precautions testing the ice every step of the way. Once he reached the doe, he said he threw a scarf over its eyes to calm it down and rolled it onto a plastic toboggan to pull it back to shore.
“We helped stand it up and the thing took off,” he said, adding that it didn’t appear to have any broken bones and there was no sign of blood.
This wasn’t the first time Ritcey came to the rescue of a stranded deer. He said there was another case a few years ago, but in that instance the deer was badly injured and had to be euthanized.
The B.C. Conservation Service says an officer received a call about the deer on Sunday, but due to a miscommunication, he thought the complaint had been dealt with when it hadn’t.
Spokesman Tobe Sprado says it’s not unusual for deer to flee to frozen lakes while being chased by predators and then be unable to get up from the ice.
“For whatever reason, they look at the lake as being a bit of a refuge,” he says. “We get calls every year about stranded deer in ice.”
He says conservation offers do not typically rescue deer in such situations.
“It’s a risky situation, to be putting your life at risk for saving a deer,” he says.
“We usually let nature run its course in a lot of these incidents. The other option, if we feel it’s in public interest and to prevent suffering of the animal, we would possibly attend and euthanize that wildlife.”
Another option the service would “possibly consider” would be to reach out to other entities, such as search and rescue or municipal fire departments, who would have the equipment and training to save the deer, he said.