Derek Plourde was on his regular daily walk on Tuesday when he came across something unusual in a Fort Macleod river bottom.
“I just came upon these deer stuck together,” he said. “I could tell right away the one was dead. ”
The living buck was struggling to stay alive and out of the icy water.
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Not knowing what else to do, he called his daughter who brought three friends to help.
“He’s like, ‘who do I call, what do I do?’” His daughter says about the call. “And before we even knew how to respond to that, we were grabbing blankets and a saw and headed out the door.”
She immediately called a Fish and Wildlife officer and kept him on the phone as they approached the deer.
“He informed me he was an hour away so he stayed on the phone and I kind of just narrated him through the whole process; what we were doing.”
They say they were planning to wait for the officer, but when the deer began to drown, they intervened.
Her boyfriend, Frank, had the saw and said when they walked up, the deer was “spooked and flipped himself into the water, like completely upside down.”
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Then things escalated to the point where Ploude got in the water. Frank said he heard him yell: “Frank, grab my arm!”
Frank took his arm as he reached for the deer, grabbing their antlers and bringing them back to shore.
Unable to untangle the antlers, they used the saw to cut them off, releasing the deer.
The buck, according to Ploude “was dazed and confused, but off it toddled.”
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Ian and Celena, the other friends who were present, bringing supplies and documenting it all, said it was “a great bonding moment for all of us,” Ian said. “Once in a lifetime.”
“[There were] lots of hugs and lots of yelling,” his wife Celena added.
Fish and wildlife said they understand why they intervened, but do voice concern about public safety.
“Approaching a wild animal, especially a deer that is already under a lot of stress, it can be dangerous,” said spokesperson Brendan Cox. “Ultimately, it turned out well, no one was hurt and the deer was freed, but we would prefer for people to wait for us.”
The group came out with cold hands and feet, but say they sort of feel like Christmas heroes.
“I had one of my buddies who had showed his daughters, and they think that we saved Santa’s reindeer,” said Frank.