Waltham firefighters rescue deer stranded on ice

Firefighters brought the deer to shore on an ice rescue sled.
Firefighters brought the deer to shore on an ice rescue sled.Credit: David L. Ryan/Globe Staff

In a dramatic operation, firefighters rescued a deer stranded on the ice at the Cambridge Reservoir in Waltham on Friday afternoon, but the animal was in such poor condition that it later had to be euthanized.

Helicopter video footage shot by local TV stations showed two rescuers struggling to grab the stranded deer, an adult female that they had reached in an ice rescue sled. The crew worked for more than 15 minutes to secure the animal, covering its head with a bag and tying its legs. The deer shook the bag off several times as it tried to thrash free.

The crew managed to pull the deer to shore by 12:50 p.m. The deer made distressed noises as it was loaded into a box for transportation to the Tufts Wildlife Clinic in Grafton.

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In a statement Friday afternoon, the clinic said experts believed that the deer had been on the ice for hours, possibly overnight, and struggling to get up for an extended period. The animal appeared to be suffering from the “degeneration of skeletal muscle that can result from extreme muscular activity,” the clinic said.

The deer’s condition was so poor that “the most humane solution” was sedation and euthanasia, it said.

More than a dozen firefighters and other officials had assembled on the shore just before noon to rescue the deer, which was lying on the ice between a small island and busy Route 128.

Firefighters were responding to a 911 call from someone at a nearby business park reporting animals struggling on the reservoir’s ice, Waltham Fire Department Lieutenant Scott Perry said.

The deer appeared to be a football field’s length from Route 128, lying with its head up. The helicopter video showed the deer seemingly calm, with its legs mostly hidden underneath it as firefighters prepared to launch the rescue.

The department’s deputy chief as well as an engine company and personnel from the Animal Rescue League of Boston were among the responders on the scene, Perry said.

Perry said firefighters rescue the animals because of the risk that civilians will endanger themselves by trying to do it on their own.

“Especially with animals, we have people who might become emotional and do something,” Perry said. “We’re trained to do these things and would rather have trained professionals go out and rescue them.”

Waltham Fire Deputy Roger Hebert said Friday that officials initially found another deer on the ice when they arrived, but it was already dead.

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