Two B.C. residents say it took a group effort to rescue a deer from likely death after it fell through thin ice this week.
“I got a phone call that a deer had gone through the ice, so I got my wife, Marlene, and my grandson to go down to see. And there was the deer, which had broken through the ice,” Thomas told Global News.
Angela Waterous said she was heading into town when she spotted that man along the Atwood Bridge.
“When I stopped to see what was going on, I saw the deer thrashing in the middle of the frozen river,” said Waterous, adding calls to officials were made but that no help was coming.
“So I offered him a canoe that a friend of mine (who recently died) had given to me. So he went and got it and tried to rescue the deer.”
That effort didn’t succeed, though, with the deer avoiding capture and no rope available to lasso the deer.
Waterous said she then phoned her husband, and, after some phone tag, Thomas was contacted.
Thomas, 63, said the ice above the deer appeared to be OK, so he went to investigate. However, that section of ice was riddled with holes.
That’s when a plan was hatched to paddle down to the deer and rescue it. The only problem: River ice.
Thomas said the plan was for first man to join him in the canoe, but that changed to just Thomas. The fear was that after pushing the canoe out onto the river ice, it would break with two men trying to get into it.
Thomas noted that the ice did break while he was getting into the canoe, but that he managed to get in safely.
“Now I’m on top of the ice in the canoe. And, of course, you can’t paddle on ice,” said Thomas. “So I had to chip holes in the ice with the paddle and push my way to the deer.”
Around 20 minutes and 40-plus yards later, Thomas made his way to the deer, which allowed him to place a rope around his neck.
“He was just in the water,” said Thomas. “And then I had to get the canoe up and around him into open water. And from there, I just towed him down an open passage.”
The two reached ice near the river’s edge, with Waterous and another woman helping load the deer into the canoe, which was then towed another 20 yards to shore.
Thomas said the deer was so cold, it couldn’t move, let alone stand. He estimated the deer to be around three years old and around 150 pounds.
“We got the canoe to the bottom of an embankment,” said Thomas. “And then we had to get the deer out of the canoe and then we had to drag him up the bank.”
From there, the deer was loaded into Waterous’ truck and taken to a warm cabin on Thomas’s property.
Thomas said the deer spent two hours inside the cabin before being relocated outside to a porch, where a bed of hay had been made. The deer was then covered with blankets.
“He had his head up the whole time and then we left them there,” said Thomas. “And when we came back in the morning, at 4 a.m., he was gone.
“I followed his tracks and he went across out fence-line and out.”
Asked how the rescue made him feel, Thomas, a former wilderness guide, said “it was very rewarding. I knew the deer needed help and it was just a no-brainer to go and help him.”
Added Waterous: “The good news was that he didn’t drown in the river. And it was a group effort from a bunch of people who didn’t want to see his life end in a sad way.
“He didn’t have (much time left). He couldn’t even stand on his own and support himself. We had to carry him, but it was worth it. He’s a beautiful creature and he deserves a chance.”