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New Brunswick men come together to save deer stranded on thin ice

After spending days sliding along New Brunswick’s St. John River, a young deer was rescued by a few daring locals with a flat-bottom boat.

The deer was first spotted by Kenny Tomah, who noticed a “blob” in the middle of the half-frozen river as he was driving into Woodstock.

“…I thought maybe it was a garbage bag,” Tomah told CBC News. Lucky for the deer, he pulled out his binoculars and found out otherwise. When he realized it was actually a young doe laying on the ice, he knew he had to do something to save her. The ice was only two inches thick at most, and Tomah worried that the deer would fall through it. Either that or she would become the victim of a hungry coyote.

Tomah quickly recruited his son, Daniel, and friends John and Joe Riordon and Ryan McHatten for help. Together, they gathered rope, a few axes, some ski poles, and a flat-bottom boat, before rushing back to the river where the deer was struggling.

Posted by John Riordon on Thursday, December 8, 2016

“[She] stood a better chance on ground than [she] did on the ice,” John Riordon said. “[Coyotes] chase them out on the ice ‘cause the deer can’t stand up on it.”

According to reports, the deer had been stuck on the ice for nearly two days. Although she was likely exhausted by the time Tomah and his crew showed up, they scared her enough that she attempted to run off.

“It was quite a chore,” Riordon said. “The whole time we were getting closer to that deer, of course [she] was scared, trying to get farther away from us.”

Things didn’t get much easier for the rescuers when they did reach her. After failing to lasso the deer, Riordon got close enough that he was able to reach out and grab her. That’s when she really started kicking and one of her hind legs struck Riordon right in the eye.

But even as he was bleeding from the face, Riordon didn’t give up on the deer. He pulled the 100-pound doe into the boat, and Tomah quickly worked to tie her legs so that she would stay inside and no one else would get kicked.

By the time they made it to shore, a small group of onlookers had gathered on the riverbank and two RCMP vehicles had showed up.

“I thought we was going to get all heck for being out there like that,” Tomah said. Instead, they were congratulated for their efforts and the two officers helped untie the doe to set her free.

The deer took off in the other direction almost immediately, and the crowd cheered. Tomah told CBC that the deer didn’t appear to have any broken bones or torn muscles. Its back legs were a bit weak at first, but Tomah said that the further it ran the stronger they got.

Thanks to their rescue efforts, the deer was spared from any real injury. Of course the same can’t be said for Riordon, who’s now sporting a black eye, but he told reporters it was well worth it.