A young deer is lucky to be alive after a daring rescue with some unusual equipment on a lake near Kenora, Ont.
Devin Bell, 31, was on his way to his home north of Kenora Wednesday afternoon when he spotted something curled up in the middle of the newly frozen-over Black Sturgeon Lake.
When he pulled over he realized it was a young doe, trapped roughly 500 metres off the shore.
With help from his friend Johnny Neniska, Bell decided to take a closer look.
Bell says the deer was lying so still they assumed it was dead, but both he and the animal were in for a surprise when they walked across the ice — with a paddleboard — to tow it back to shore.
“I put the paddleboard right up to it, I was kneeling on the paddle board and I grabbed the deer to pull it on and then it came to life,” Bell said Friday.
“It started freaking out and jumping all over the place and punching holes in the ice.”
Now in the middle of a lake with just two-inches of ice on top of it — standing next to a bucking deer working to crack that ice — Bell and Neniska quickly worked to calm the animal and get it on their paddleboard.
But the deer didn’t go along with their plans.
“I tried dragging it on the paddleboard and it kept jumping off,” Bell said.
“So I ended up having to just tie a rope around it and drag it because it was not not cooperating.”
After about an hour the pair were able to pull the deer across the ice and back to the shore.
Bell said the doe was too weak to stand up at first, but after about a half hour it got up — and made a beeline back towards the lake.
They grabbed the deer one more time and pulled her farther ashore and into some nearby bush, where Bell says he checked later to find only tracks wandering away.
Thankfully the footprints led away from the water this time.
Bell says the deer likely slipped and fell after walking out onto the new ice, and, because there was no snow for her hooves to grip, she hadn’t been able to get up again.
He says she probably wouldn’t have made it through the night without their help.
“The wolves would have grabbed her, probably as soon as the sun went down,” he said.
Bell says this isn’t the first time he’s rescued a deer from the ice — he pulled a large buck from a newly frozen lake around this time last year.
Despite the risks, Bell said he’ll probably do it again if he sees an animal stuck on the ice.
“I spend 90 per cent of my time in the winter cold on the ice,” he said. “So I’m pretty familiar with it, I’m not scared of it.”