The doe allowed caretakers to swaddle it in blankets for several hours Saturday evening, above. Below, the doe struggling to escape the frigid Navesink that afternoon; the deer at left drowned. (Photo above by Stan Balmer, below by John T. Ward. Click to enlarge)
By JOHN T. WARD
A deer saved in a dramatic rescue from the frigid waters of the frozen Navesink River Saturday was released later that night – but only after veterinary professionals suggested it be euthanized, redbankgreen has learned.
Second Deputy Fire Chief Pete DeFazio said personnel at the Red Bank Veterinary Hospital in Tinton Falls told him and other emergency volunteers that the hospital had no facilities for the deer, which while uninjured, was cold and immobile, and would probably be euthanized.
“I said, ‘why, after we went to all this trouble, would you euthanize it?'” DeFazio told redbankgreen Monday evening. “How can you kill this thing after all we went through to save it?”
As seen in a redbankgreen video, volunteer firefighters and EMTs from several towns saved the doe after it and another deer fell through the river ice off Oyster Point at about 3 p.m. Saturday.
DeFazio said that after one deer drowned, the surviving doe traveled the length of a channel the pair had made in the ice, heading toward a rescue boat, desperate to be saved.
“You could see it was tired and cold” after a nearly an hour of struggle in the frigid water, he said.
At the animal hospital, after volunteers balked at the idea of the deer being euthanized, an RBVH technician noted the presence of deer at a housing development near the hospital, and suggested the doe might be released there, DeFazio said.
So some of the emergency workers who had helped save the doe from the river put the her back into the ambulance in which they’d brought her and took it to the development for release, he said.
“I’m sure we violated some health department regulation by having the deer in the ambulance, but we took our chances,” said DeFazio, a former Red Bank police captain.
Mayor Pasquale Menna, who was on the scene of the river rescue Saturday, had authorized EMTs to transport the deer to RBVH in a Red Bank First Aid Squad ambulance, he told redbankgreen.
Once at the new location, the deer was laid down on a blanket and covered with others while an unidentified volunteer kept an eye on her, said Red Bank K9 Patrolman Stan Balmer, who happened upon the pair after taking the RBPD’s new police dog, Hunter, to the vet.
Balmer said he and the volunteer relocated the deer to a safer spot and again swaddled her in blankets.
“I was worried about it all night, and after my shift ended at 3 [a.m.], I stopped to check on it,” Balmer told redbankgreen. He said the deer, which he estimated weighed 200 pounds, appeared to have recovered in the interim.
“I went to put a blanket on it, but it ran away,” he said. “That’s a good sign. It just bolted. I’m going to say it’s going to make it.”
It was not immediately clear whether and why the deer might have faced euthanasia. In a voicemail message left for redbankgreen Monday evening, hospital spokeswoman Lauren Carroll said that “once it was deemed there was no medical attention needed for the deer, it was released back to the EMTs who brought it in.” But she could not be reached for further comment.
Members of the water rescue team of the Community Fire Company in the Leonardo section of Middletown executed the doe’s rescue.
“If I knew it was euthanized after all that, I would be upset,” said a volunteer fireman involved in the effort who asked not to be named.