Deer rescued by boat after falling through ice patch at Westwood Lake


Colleen Tomlin was on a hike with her brother at Nanaimo’s Westwood Lake on Tuesday afternoon, when something caught his eye.

“My brother noticed that the ice was moving and that’s when I thought, yeah right, I don’t think so,” Tomlin said.

She looked in the same direction but didn’t see anything. A few moments later — a head surfaced.

“Sure enough, I look and in the middle you can see this little head popping out,” Tomlin recalled. “And you know, first I thought god that’s weird, what the heck is that?”

Tomlin pulled out her phone and zoomed in — she was looking right at a deer that had fallen through an ice patch into icy waters in Westwood Lake.

“Then it started like trying to swim to shore, every now and again you could see its little body trying to break the ice,” she explained.

Scrambling to help, Tomlin dialled 911. Dispatchers were able to relay the information she passed along to Nanaimo Fire Rescue and the BC Conservation Officer Service (BCCOS).

Within 10 minutes, help had arrived.

Eight firefighters responded to the call at about 1:30 p.m., with two engines and one boat. Two BCCOS officers were also on scene to assist and together, the team got to work.

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“We took the boat and we tried to do some ice breaking to get the deer to swim to shore on its own,” said Stuart Kenning, Nanaimo Fire Rescue’s assistant chief of operations.

But the deer wasn’t swimming towards shore, so the crew had to come up with another plan. The firefighters turned to the conservation officers and they decided to bring the deer on board the boat.

“He was quite cold and quite frozen, so he just laid still in the bow of the boat until we brought him to shore,” said Kenning.

The boat pulled up to the shore, about a half-hour after crews first went into the water. The firefighters and conservation officers wrapped the deer in a blanket, helping it warm up.

“He was a little too cold to move, so he laid on the beach for a while,” Kenning explained.

The deer struggled to move at first — but with no injuries, it eventually was able to wander off on its own.

“He was running through the woods, happy as can be,” said Kenning.

“It’s exhilarating,” Tomlin added. “It’s just like, oh my god, yay, it’s going to live!”

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Jasmine BalaJasmine Bala

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