A female deer jammed between the ice of Alberta’s semi-frozen Red Deer River managed to escape with the help of an ex-firefighter who waded into the sub-zero waters.
When Alberta-resident Matthew Todd Paproski checked his Facebook one day in early December, he saw a post about a deer that was trapped in the river near Drumheller, not far from his home.
Paproski was just about to lay down for a nap, but the image he saw was so startling that he couldn’t ignore it.
When he asked if anyone had offered to help the deer, he got a response about half an hour later:
“They said, ‘Well, yeah, but most of the people that are offering to come help want to bring their rifles,” Paproski told CBC News. He then replied and told the poster that he was going to try to save the deer.
With that, Paproski grabbed his rescue equipment. His girlfriend and fellow wildlife enthusiast, Laura Dougan, joined and brought her camera equipment with them.
When the couple arrived at the river, they didn’t have any trouble finding the deer. There was a crowd of people gathered around the shore, watching as the animal helplessly struggled amid the ice. Despite the few who suggested putting her out of her misery, no one knew what to do until Paproski got there.
“The deer was clearly in distress. The people on the shore watching were in distress, and we could do something,” he said, though he did stress that he wouldn’t attempt a rescue like this without prior training.
With the assistance of a few neighbours, Paproski set up a rope and belay. Donning a set of hip waders, he made his way out onto the ice. But the doe was leery of her rescuer, and as Paproski moved closer, she tried to run. That’s when Paproski decided to change his approach.
“I was walking across the ice and the ice was cracking underneath and I didn’t know what to do, so I thought, ‘Might as well jump in,’” he said. Moments later, he did exactly that.
Luckily, the river was shallow enough that the water didn’t go over his hip waders. With his feet firmly planted on the bottom of the river, Paproski got behind the deer and tied a rope around her. He then got under the deer and lifted her from below while his team of helpers pulled the other end of the rope from shore.
About half an hour after Paproski’s arrival, the group managed to get the deer back on to solid ice.
“She was so happy,” he said.
The deer then slid her way back to land and took off, while Paproski slowly waded his way back to shore.