'Happy ending' for deer rescued off frozen lake after 24-hour stranding

Kamloops Search and Rescue volunteers rescued a deer that was trapped on a frozen lake in B.C.'s Interior.

'It definitely wouldn’t have made it the night' says rescuer, who said coyotes were circling

A deer had to pulled off a frozen lake in B.C.'s Interior by toboggan on Dec. 4. (Mike Ritcey)

A deer who had been trapped on a frozen lake for 24 hours has been rescued by two Kamloops Search and Rescue (SAR) volunteers who used extreme caution on the ice.

Mike Ritcey got a call on Dec. 3 from a woman who had noticed the deer on Tunkwa Lake and feared it was stuck.

The volunteer felt he should go and check on the deer, though it's not usually the job of SAR rescuers.

Ritcey said he worried that an untrained person might try to save the animal and end up in danger.

"I figured it would be safer if we went out on the ice because we have the proper equipment," he said.

"It is dangerous out there this time of year."

Kamloops Search and Rescue volunteer Mike Ritcey travelled across "sketchy" conditions on frozen Tunkwa Lake to rescue a doe from what he considers a certain demise. He covered the doe's eyes to keep her calm. (Mike Ritcey)

Ritcey called his friend and fellow SAR volunteer Michelle Liebe Hofstee and they headed to the lake last night on a 70-kilometre drive west of Kamloops B.C., which takes about an hour.

They arrived to find the doe stranded on the ice.

"The ice was just like glass under a skiff of snow," Ritcey said.

It is dangerous out there this time of year.- Mike Ritcey

Ritcey and Liebe Hofstee made their way on to the ice, chopping it about every three metres to make sure the ice was thick enough to hold them.

When they finally made it to the deer, she was unable to get up.

They rolled the chilly creature onto a toboggan and pulled it to the shore where they helped it recover.

Once the wobbly doe was able to stand she scurried away, said Ritcey.

The deer was wobbly, but rescuers said it took off after they got it to stand on its own. (Mike Ritcey)

"It definitely wouldn't have made it the night — there was lots of coyotes around patrolling the shoreline," Ritcey said.  

This isn't Ritcey's first deer rescue.

And he says such efforts don't always succeed.

After a different attempt to save a deer stuck on Kamloops Lake he said the animal did not survive.

Birds had attacked it and pecked out the animal's eyes.

"That one never had a happy ending," he said.

Despite the result with this doe Ritcey says people should not generally call SAR for animal rescues.

Police or conservation officers are more appropriate calls for the task.

With files from Doug Herbertand Daybreak Kamloops