More Deer Fall Through Unsafe Ice
Eight deer ventured out onto the ice of South Long Lake Saturday morning. Three fell through the ice and died and four were able to walk off the lake on their own.
The eighth deer, too, fell through the ice, but was rescued by lake residents.
It was the second time this unseasonably warm fall the Dispatch received a report of lakeshore owners seeing deer falling through the ice, struggling to survive. The first report was Nov. 9 on Gull River. A conservation officer with the Department of Natural Resources helped rescue the deer.
In Saturday's incident, South Long Lake resident Andrea Walker said she looked out her window just after 7 a.m. when she saw eight deer stuck out in the middle of the lake, and four broke through the ice. Walker watched the other four deer walk off the lake—slipping and sliding—but they made their way safely to the shoreline.
Sgt. Neil Dickenson of the Minnesota State Patrol said the state patrol typically does not handle calls such as a deer rescue. He said the report was made and a DNR conservation officer in the area was made aware of the incident.
DNR Capt. Alex Gutierrez, administrative manager in the St. Paul office, said the DNR has no policy in place on how it handles animals in distress calls. Gutierrez called the Dispatch back after he sat in a DNR leadership conference Monday at Camp Ripley, where one of the topics was how to handle injured animals calls.
"We have some direction on how we handle these calls," Gutierrez said. "The No. 1 thing is public safety and then it is the officer's safety. Does the deer's life mean more than the officer's life? ... We don't want the public venturing out on the ice."
Gutierrez said animals with four legs can spread their weight much easier than a human with two legs; and animals are much lighter.
"We have to weigh everything (before responding to a call of an animal in distress)," Gutierrez said. "If our safety is in jeopardy to recover an animal (we won't.) If an animal is in distress it could hurt the officer or anyone trying to save it. We try to let Mother Nature take its course."
Gutierrez said if a DNR officer is in the area of the call and has the time and the proper equipment, they may try to rescue the animal, as long as it is feasible and safe.