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Fire department, DNR rescue deer stuck in Red Lake River

By Kevin Bonham

Forum News Service

CROOKSTON, Minn. -- A successful rescue of a deer that was stranded in the icy waters of the Red Lake River in Crookston was caught on video Wednesday.

Ross Hier, area wildlife supervisor with the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources, and Crookston Fire Department firefighter Chris Klawitter used a flat-bottom boat to navigate through water and over ice to bring the deer to shore.

Hier said the Fire Department received the call at about 2:50 p.m. about a deer being trapped in the water in the Woods Addition.

"The deer looked like it was trying to get across the river to the south," Hier said, estimating it was 40 to 45 yards offshore, about halfway across the river. "She hit an area where the ice was honeycombed and ice-sharded."

The rescuers used a pike pole, a long pole with a hook on the end -- a standard firefighting tool -- to pull the boat across and through the ice, some of it breaking up as they moved, Klawitter said.

"It wasn't bad," he said. "We had a little bit of open water. We had some solid ice. We kind of split the ice across it. Once we got a technique that seemed to work, it worked out pretty well.

"I wasn't sure how she would react," he added. "We didn't know if she would be thrashing and kicking. But when we got out there, she didn't have any fight left in her."

Hier said the deer appeared to be attempting to move upstream as they approached her.

"She went about maybe 10 feet into the ice," he said. "She was kind of entombed in that small area, which helped us. We recognized she was clearly exhausted. After assessing the situation, we realized we could probably do this safely, so we just grabbed her and brought her into the boat."

Hier estimates the doe was older than a yearling and weighed about 120 to 125 pounds.

"It's amazing. As we were pulling her out, her body was conceding it was over," he said. "The buoyancy they maintain is fascinating."

A rope was used to pull the boat back to shore. The rescue took 10 to 15 minutes.

For the deer, however, the ordeal wasn't over.

Once out of the boat, she laid motionless along the shore. She was still there nearly three hours later, when Hier, who lives right near where the rescue took place, walked his dog along the river.

A neighbor told KROX Radio that the deer finally got up and left at about 7 p.m.

"A human would have succumbed in less than an hour," Hier said. "A whitetail deer is tougher."

Forum News Service

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