A Bethany, Ont., couple is being credited with saving a small deer which was stranded in Pigeon River in the City of Kawartha Lakes on Sunday afternoon.
Stephanie and Thomas Christopher say around noon they were en route to Lindsay along Ski Hill Road when they noticed a white-tailed deer struggling in the middle of the icy river, which flows through the village of Omemee, located just west of Peterborough.
“I first thought it was something just floating in and out of the water,” Stephanie told CHEX News.
“Then we realized it was a deer trying to pull itself out of the water but it couldn’t get out. The ice kept breaking.”
The couple quickly returned to their home where they retrieved their small fibre glass row boat and a pole to help break the ice. Stephanie estimates the ice on the river was about three inches thick but thinner in some areas due to a strong undercurrent.
She also instructed her sister-in-law to call police and the Ministry of Natural Resources and Forestry.
“We discovered the MNR doesn’t have anyone in Kawartha Lakes — the nearest place is Minden,” said Stephanie, noting Minden is 80 kilometres north of Omemee.
They returned to the river and paddled out to the stranded doe which Stephanie says initially tried to swim away as she broke some ice. However, she says the animal eventually turned around and swam towards the boat.
Thomas lifted its front feet onto the bow and held the animal while Stephanie paddled back to shore to complete the estimated 30-minute rescue.
“The deer was pretty calm and compliant,” Stephanie said. “I was happy about that. She was cold but calm.”
They eventually reached a culvert along Ski Hill Road and lifted the deer to shore. Stephanie retrieved blankets while a man hauling corn stopped and provided the animal with a “hat-full” of corn kernels.
“That made a huge difference,” said Stephanie. “You could feel her warm up and we continued to rub her to try to stimulate her to move.”
An OPP officer and an MNR conservation officer who happened to be in Omemee at the time arrived on scene to help the animal, Stephanie noted.
She and her husband stayed with the deer for “up to four hours” until the “hefty” doe was able to get to its feet. They released the animal at a nearby tree line.
“We couldn’t just walk away,” said Stephanie. “Thomas is a pretty big humanitarian when it comes to animals.”