On Monday, (November 22) Medicine River Wildlife Centre received multiple calls involving a deer that was stranded on the ice of the partially frozen Red Deer River. With the assistance of Red Deer’s Emergency Services the rescue centre was able to safely rescue and release the doe.

The rescue believes the deer was stranded there for about a day before it was rescued. The doe had suffered a sprain to her hip and was struggling to get up on the ice. Although the deer was injured, Executive Director of Medicine River Wildlife, Carol Kelly says the chances of survival with an injury in captivity are much worse than in the wild.

“The chances of it healing are probably 5 per cent and the reason is not that it can't heal in captivity, it's just that they're terrified in captivity.  They most commonly die of something called capture myopathy,” Kelly explained.

“It is the lactic acid produced by the stressed muscles that will damage the heart, liver, and kidney and kill the animal. They can die a month after the actual stress,” she added.

Due to capture myopathy, the rescue tends to avoid taking in adult deer and moose.

“They are designed to die quickly when they are stressed and are caught by a cougar, a bear, whatever other creature is eating them. That's their lot in life is to be appraised species so they also die very quickly,” said Kelly.

Red Deer Emergency Services and Medicine River Wildlife devised a plan to circle around the deer and coax her to the shore with their banana boats.

“We had an RCMP officer on standby to put her down quickly and humanely, but everyone was relieved when she stood up. She was obviously limping on her back leg but she walked into the forest and if she could do that, she will heal far better on her own without us,” said Kelly.

As they were performing the rescue, Kelly received three other rescue calls of animals that appeared to be in need of rescuing from the ice. She noted that there have been more of those sorts of calls due to the warmer temperatures and ice that is not quite yet frozen.  

“We're actually looking at getting the same kind of rescue boats for ice rescues as the fire department has. They’re called a banana boat and we're looking at getting one of those. In Red Deer, it's awesome because the emergency services are on it and they liked helping us, but if we get the ice rescue calls on other lakes and other bodies of water outside of Red Deer then we're on our own,” Kelly explained.

When it comes to wildlife ice rescues Kelly says it’s best not to attempt the rescue yourself and wait for those with the proper equipment.

For more information on Medicine River Wildlife Centre, click here.