SARANAC LAKE - The state Department of Environmental Conservation euthanized an injured deer Tuesday that may have been attacked by one or more coyotes.
A passing motorist on state Route 3, the Bloomingdale Road, spotted the deer lying in the snow along the east bank of the Saranac River, about a quarter-mile outside the village of Saranac Lake, and contacted DEC and the Saranac Lake Volunteer Fire Department.
Fire department members were the first to respond, though they couldn't get any closer to the animal than the shoulder of the road due to the waist-deep snow and because the deer was on the opposite side of the river in an area with no road access. Fire officials briefly considered putting a boat in the river to reach the animal, but they ruled that out because they didn't want to put themselves at risk.
An injured deer that may have been attacked by one or more coyotes lies in the snow along the Saranac River on Tuesday.
(Enterprise photo — Chris Knight)
A firefighter with binoculars noticed that the deer appeared to be injured, as there was blood on the snow where the animal was lying and it looked like it had an open gash on its leg.
Fire officials then contacted DEC, and wildlife biologist Ben Tabor and wildlife technician Evan Wills responded to the scene around 3:30 p.m. Tabor said the deer had what appeared to be, from a distance, a bite wound on its neck and other injuries.
"More than likely, coyotes have been on that deer," he said.
Tabor said it wouldn't have been possible to make a closer examination of the animal by boat without jeopardizing himself and others. Given the deep snow, reaching the animal on foot before nightfall was also ruled out. Tabor then decided to euthanize the animal. It was killed with a single shot from a rifle.
"That's really the only thing we can do at this point to make the suffering for the animal end," Tabor said. "If we did nothing, the coyotes would probably get it tonight."
If possible, Tabor said he may try to hike over today to get a closer look at the carcass and possibly take a bone sample from the deer's femur, which could help determine if the animal was healthy or starving.
Tabor said many deer in the Adirondacks will not make it through the winter, as all the snow has made it hard for them to get around and get to their food resources. That's also benefited coyotes, he said, as deer typically will stay in certain areas - known as deer yards - when there's this much snow, making them easy targets for predators.
"Coyotes will eat well this year," Tabor said.