A Minnesota volunteer fire department came to the rescue of a buck that fell through an icy river and was struggling to get to solid ground. Photos from the fiasco showed the wild animal half-submerged in the frigid northern water with two hooves desperately clawing at the ice to keep it above the surface. Luckily, for the deer, crews arrived in time before the deer could sink any further into a tragic fate.
The incident occurred on Monday at Red Lake River near Thief River Falls. At the helm of the rescue effort was volunteer fire chief Rick Beier, who admitted he had never had to come to the aid of a buck in all his time.
“Never rescued a deer like this, but we have with dogs,” Beier said in an interview with Outdoor News. “They like to stray out on the ice sometimes, too.”
This wasn’t just any deer in distress. The shivering buck happened to be something of a local legend to folks in Thief River Falls, thanks to its impressive rack.
“Leading up to this, there were pictures of that deer on Facebook all the time in the local area,” Beier said. “People would snap pictures of it on their trail cam or whatever. It was the exact same one. He’s been a little bit of a legend if you will before (Monday).”
Beier received a call from a concerned resident about the famous animal’s predicament at about 7:50 a.m. According to the volunteer fire chief, the buck has access to a wooded area to graze and bed down.
Buck ‘Didn’t Put Up Much of a Fight’ When Rescuers Arrived
The stretch of river where the deer fell through wasn’t too far from a road that often gets busy during morning rush hour. Once Beier and his team arrived, they noticed that a crowd of spectators stopped to gawk at the deer.
“The best he could do is get his front hooves up on the ice, but then there was no grip from there. There was nothing he could do,” Beier recalled.
By the time the rescue team arrived, the deer had fully exhausted itself. Beier isn’t sure how long the deer was in the water, but the team knew they needed to work fast before hypothermia won over. They tied a tow rope to the buck’s antlers and gently began tugging him out of the water.
“He didn’t put up much of a fight,” Beier said. “Once he was out of the hole, we let him sit there for a little bit. We thought maybe he would get up, and he didn’t. We slid him to the edge of the river, and we pulled him up the bank right onto the edge of the woods.”
The crew waited a moment for the deer to regain its footing and watched it wander back into the woods.
“Hopefully he makes it,” Beier said. “He was a bit wobbly, but he walked off into the woods. How long can a deer sit in the cold water like that? I don’t know. A lot of that probably depends on how long he had been there. It was just pretty much starting to get light. He could have been in there for quite a long time.”