Deer rescued from icy lake dies despite hours of care

A state forest ranger feeds glucose gel to a deer rescued after falling through the ice on Lake Flower Sunday. Despite efforts to help the doe recover, she died Sunday evening. (Photo provided — Travis MacDonald)

SARANAC LAKE — A deer fell through the ice on Lake Flower Sunday morning and emergency workers spent hours rescuing and trying to rehab the animal.

According to village police, they received a call at 7:30 a.m. Sunday morning reporting the deer’s plight, trapped in the narrows on Lake Flower. The Saranac Lake Volunteer Fire Department was alerted, and after sending a member out to assess the situation, responded with 10 members and two trucks equipped with ice rescue gear and an air boat.

“We consulted with (state Department of Environmental Conservation). Everybody got together and formed a quick plan … as long as I can remember, we’ve never been called for something like this,” Saranac Lake Volunteer Fire Department Chief Brendan Keough said. “It was a very unusual situation for us.”

The fire department does not usually respond to a deer fallen through the ice, it said in a press release, as deer will often self rescue or eventually succumb to the elements. DEC spokesperson David Winchell said the agency doesn’t typically respond to wild animal rescues, nor do they recommend it. Winchell said this is because of the danger the ice and freezing water can pose to any would-be rescuers, and the danger a wild animal can pose to an individual attempting a rescue.

“However, due to the location of the deer and serious concerns that untrained well intentioned civilians might attempt to rescue the deer,” the fire department press release stated, “it was jointly decided that in the best interest of public safety an attempt to remove the doe from the lake by trained ice rescue personnel could be made safely.”

The Saranac Lake Volunteer Fire Department pulls a doe from the icy waters of Lake Flower Sunday with the help of its airboat. The doe was warmed up on the shore and moved to a quiet location but died later Sunday evening despite the many efforts to rehab it. (Photo provided — Travis MacDonald)

Using the airboat, three trained ice rescue members attempted to break the ice around the deer so the animal could swim to shore. However, the deer appeared exhausted and incapable of swimming to shore, or remounting the ice shelf. The ice rescue members decided to try and help the deer back onto the ice shelf.

But the deer attempted to swim towards the boat, and so the airboat crew decided to pull the deer onto the vessel. The deer did not thrash or kick after being pulled into the boat.

“I don’t know if a deer can know this, but it seemed like she knew we were there to save her,” Keough said. “She was very calm and just laid in the bottom of the boat.”

The rescue crew transported the deer to the Lake Flower boat launch where emergency services attempted to rehab the deer. Emergency and state personnel worked into the early afternoon to try and warm the animal up, providing the deer with blankets, glucose gel and apple slices. The deer was then moved to a quiet, wooded location away from roads to recover.

Despite the best efforts of all involved, the deer died Sunday evening.

A doe swims in the icy waters of Lake Flower Sunday before being rescued by a Saranac Lake Volunteer Fire Department airboat. The doe was warmed up on the shore and moved to a quiet location but died later Sunday evening despite the many efforts to rehab it. (Photo provided — Travis MacDonald)

“We were hoping for a happier outcome,” Keough said. “All agencies involved worked great together. I’m really appreciative of everyone’s efforts.”

Ice conditions are extremely unsafe due to the thaw, heavy and snow and re-freeze cycle the region has been experiencing. Emergency services warn against going out onto ice for any reason.

A doe, wrapped in a blanket, rests on the shore of Lake Flower in Saranac Lake Sunday after emergency crews rescued it from the icy waters. (Photo provided — Travis MacDonald)

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