New Brunswick

Young deer rescued from thin ice near Woodstock

A young deer was rescued from almost certain death near Woodstock on Thursday after getting herself into a slippery situation on the partially frozen St. John River.

Kenny Tomah and John Riordon borrowed a flat-bottomed boat and used ski poles to push their way out to doe

Kenny Tomah and John Riordon borrowed a flat-bottomed boat and used ski poles to push their way out to a doe in distress (Credit: John Riordon) 0:35

A young deer was rescued from almost certain death near Woodstock on Thursday after getting herself into a slippery situation on the partially frozen St. John River.

The yearling doe had been doing her own version of a Bambi-on-ice routine for about two days and must have been close to exhaustion by the time Kenny Tomah spotted her in the middle of the river.

"I was going to town, happened to look out and see a blob out there and I thought maybe it was a garbage bag," said Tomah, of Woodstock First Nation.

But when he looked again with binoculars, he realized it was a deer lying on the ice. "So I went to town and said, 'Geez, got to find a way to try to get that thing off,' you know?"

Using a flat bottomed boat, the men pushed their way onto the ice to rescue the stranded deer. (Jack Lavender/Facebook)
The ice isn't very thick yet — only between about a half an inch and two inches — and Tomah feared the doe might fall through, or worse, fall prey to coyotes or eagles that would eat her alive.

"I couldn't see that happen. I mean, that's cruel. Very cruel, you know?"

He and his son Daniel recruited twins John and Joe Riordon and Ryan McHatten to help.

We knew it was going to die if we didn't do anything and [we] just wanted to give it a fighting chance.- John Riordon

"We knew it was going to die if we didn't do anything and [we] just wanted to give it a fighting chance," said John Riordon, who had seen the stranded deer on Wednesday, but couldn't find anyone willing to help him at that time.

"It stood a better chance on ground than it did on the ice," he said. "That's how coyotes get deer — they chase them out on the ice cause the deer can't stand up on it."

So they borrowed a flat-bottom boat, gathered a bunch of rope, a couple of axes and some ski poles, and rushed back to the scene.

John Riordon and Kenny Tomah believed the deer would fall prey to coyotes if it remained stranded on the ice in the middle of the river. (Facebook/John Riordon)

'Quite a chore'

They tied the rope to the back of the boat and Tomah and Riordon ventured out, using the ski poles to slowly push their way across the ice.

"It was quite a chore," said Riordon. "The whole time we were getting closer to that deer, of course it was scared, trying to farther away from us," he said.

They tried unsuccessfully to lasso her a couple of times as several onlookers gathered on shore to watch, and decided to give one last big push. "We had just enough rope" to reach her, said Riordon.

He reached out and grabbed the doe and while he was pulling her in, her hind legs came around and  caught him "right square in the eye."

John Riordon got kicked in the eye by the deer during the rescue. (Facebook/John Riordon)
Riordon, now bleeding, managed to get the roughly 100-pound doe into the boat, Tomah helped to tie her legs so she wouldn't thrash about. The doe would "blat out and we'd try to keep [her] calm," said Tomah.

Then their friends pulled them back to shore. "By this time, there was two RCMP vehicles there," said Tomah. "I thought we was going to get all heck for being out there like that."

RCMP members help the deer rescuers pull the deer to a wooded area to be released. (Jack Lavender/Facebook)
But the officers helped untie the doe and set her free.

"It just got out and started jumping away," said Tomah. "Oh, it was real good," he said, remembering the moment. Everyone was "whooping."

The deer didn't appear to have any broken bones or torn muscles, said Tomah. He believes the fact she couldn't stand up spared her from serious injury.

"It looked pretty good," agreed Riordon, now sporting a "shiner" from his rescue efforts.

"[Its] back legs were a little bit weak, sliding around on the ice, but the farther [it] got, the better [it] was looking so I really think [it] will make it."

Was it worthwhile? "Oh, definitely," he said.

With files from Shift