The Best Day of Fishing...
Feb 7, 2012
|Four bucks who overdid a leisurely group swim near Juneau, Alaska had to be rescued by Tom Satre, captain of the charter boat the Alaska Quest. After swimming around his boat a few times, the deer were completely exhausted.
These types of stories are not unheard of, but are always amazing. Thankfully, the bucks lived to swim another day.
From a story in the Juneau Empire:
A foursome of young bucks fell upon some good luck Sunday as they were pulled from the icy waters of Stephens Passage by a group of locals out to enjoy the last few days of recent sunshine. The winds blew hard down Taku Inlet that day, said Tom Satre, captain of his 62-foot charter vessel the Alaska Quest. The fury of the gusts had whipped the water into white-capped waves, which Satre guessed were topping out around three feet.
A State Marine Park is located 25 miles south of Juneau and boasts a public dock, a public use cabin and few other decrepit buildings. It's a fine place to get out of the weather and soak up the sun. For the four family members - Satre, his daughter Anna Satre, brother Tim Satre and Kelly - this was to serve as a locale for a Sunday luncheon. But as they neared Point Arden, Kelly spotted something in the water. She raised her binoculars. Expecting to see the bobbing body of a sea lion or the heads of eiders, instead she saw ears - deer ears.
Kelly ran to get her brother. Satre slowed the boat, and the group began to watch the group of four juvenile Sitka black-tailed deer. "They swam right toward the boat," he said. "Then, they started to circle the boat. They were looking up and looked like they needed help." This was the first time he'd ever seen deer in this much distress, Satre said. They were foaming at the mouth, and not able to make it onto the swim step, they instead swam under it. The group knew something had to be done.
Satre guessed the bucks were of last year since their antlers were very small, for some just nubbins, and hardly large enough for him to grab on to. So he fashioned a lasso and, one by one, hauled them by the neck onto the back of the boat.
According to Kelly, the typically skittish and absolutely wild animals came willingly and once on the boat, collapsed with exhaustion. They were shivering, she said. A few could not hold up their heads. She didn't know if two would make it. "They couldn't stand up on their own," Kelly said. "(And) they couldn't shake the water off their coats. We didn't want to touch them, but it was clear they were happy to be there. They probably would have crawled on board if they could have."
Perhaps these deer were chased into the salty waters by a wolf or were driven out by adolescent dispersal, which happens naturally as populations begin to expand. Or maybe these were migrant deer were looking for an area with more food. Either way, these juvenile bucks, who otherwise faced dire consequences, were on their way to Taku Harbor.
As the boat made it's way to the protected port, the sun helped to warm the deer. One had stood up and looked revived. The others were still laying down, but awake. Once the group reached the dock, the first to be pulled from the water hopped onto the dock, looked back, then leapt into the waters of the harbor and swam to shore. He quickly disappeared into the forest. Two others followed suit, after a bit of prodding and assistance from the group.
"The last one was in real trouble," Satre said. "I think he was the biggest of the four. He couldn't get the water off him. I massaged him, he was shaking and was very hypothermic, I think." Between the waves and the mile or so they were from shore, it's likely exhaustion was the cause.
But the day was wearing on, and the group had obligations. So they loaded the last deer into a dockside wheelbarrow in an attempt to get him to wooded safety. "But the wheel barrow had a flat," Kelly said. "So we couldn't go far."
The waiting game began again. Tom Satre stood next to the deer as it revived, warmed and slowly became more alert. Time and time again the deer would try to stand, but its legs would fail. The group would lift up the animal; it would move a few steps and collapse again. With this combination of efforts, the last deer was finally on the trail and standing, on wobbly legs, on its own.
It was then the group said goodbye, took a few last pictures and turned for their home in the city. The good Samaritans describe their experience as "one of those defining moments in life." I'm sure it was for the deer, as well!