Woman Rescues Baby Deer Stranded in Ice Covered Lake

Fawn Decides To Stick Around For A While

BAR HARBOR—Sometimes Bambi gets a little bit of help thanks to Maine ingenuity and heart and a personal flotation device.

A few days ago, Machelle Lea LaHaye took a break from work inside her home to take “a woodsy walk” down to Graham Lake. But what she saw on the lake spurred her into action. A fawn was stuck in the water by the ice.

“I pulled off a pretty careful rescue mission thanks to my trusty canoe and my creative thinking,” she wrote on a January 21, Facebook post.

LaHaye is modest. The rescue was a little bit harder than that. Her trusty canoe was frozen to the ground and she had to dig around it with the paddle. She kept talking to the fawn as she dug at the canoe and finally kicked it free.

“I had to slide it across about six feet of thin ice and I jumped in,” she said.

The little deer was still there, stuck and waiting.  

“Lucky for her, the channel from Beech Hill Pond was still slightly open, so I could paddle up beside her,” LaHaye said. “At first I tried to pull her hind end up on the ice with my paddle under her bum-bum because I was a little nervous she may kick me, but then I realized how frozen her legs were, so I got way back in the stern of my boat and paddled hard.”

Photo: Machelle Lea LaHaye, used with permission

She beached the canoe up on the ice beside the fawn and LaHaye was steady enough to grab the deer’s bottom and lift her onto the ice.

Once on solid, albeit frozen ground, the deer couldn’t find strength or purchase.

“She slipped right back in entirely,” LaHaye said, but this coach at Rock Steady Boxing—Bold Coast, isn’t the type of person who gives up, especially not on an animal.

She had a rope in the canoe, and she kept talking to the fawn.  

“I kept talking to her all along. I made a lasso and slipped it over her neck She was struggling to swim because her hind legs were so cold. Her ears were full of ice chunks,” LaHaye recounted. “I gently towed her along until the water was shallow enough for me to stand in it. There was only thin ice along the stream shore. I got out and pulled her to the land.”

But even off the ice, the fawn couldn’t stand at all. She was too cold and too weak from her time in the frigid lake water. The deer was awkward to lift, and LaHaye could no longer use the water to help her move the animal.

She had to think fast.

“So, I took off my life jacket and pulled it under her chest onto her front legs and zipped her in. Now, I had handles, and she may have been getting a little warmer from the jacket,” LaHaye said.

She was able to lift the fawn and carry her up part of the trail. In her Facebook post, she credits CrossFit Acadia. LaHaye’s boyfriend, Tommy Mosley arrived, and ran back to LaHaye’s house and got a big sled and some blankets.

Photo: Machelle LaHaye, used with permission

“We wrapped her up, and he pulled and I pushed the sled. We pulled her up the hill and across the apple orchard to my house,” LaHaye said.

Throughout the rescue, she was certain that she was going to bring the fawn inside and get her warm by the fire and that if she didn’t, the fawn would not make it.

“Tommy was a little concerned about this, but when we got to the front door, he and I each lifted an end of the sled and carried the icy deer baby into my living room,” LaHaye said. “She was quiet, calm, and so cold, curious of her surroundings, but she didn’t try to stand.”

The deer just laid there and LaHaye rubbed the animal’s hind legs, trying to warm them.

“I had Tommy heat up all the rice bags I own, and we kept laying them on her legs, heart, neck and I kept massaging. She started to move around a little,” LaHaye said. “I think the sled was uncomfortable, so we lifted her with a blanket onto some sleeping bags a little closer to the fire. I then peeled off my wet boots and socks put on some dry socks and sat beside her.”

The deer rested her head on LaHaye’s legs, and LaHaye pulled more blankets on the fawn, and stretched the animal’s legs out long and placed rice bags on them while she rubbed the fawn’s ears and neck.

After almost two hours, the deer was ready to try and stand.

Photo: Machelle LaHaye, used with permission

“What a beautiful animal she is. I felt blessed to be able to be so close to her and for her to trust me,” LaHaye said. “With a little help, she stood. She stood for a few moments. I asked Tommy to open the two front doors and leave them open.”

After a few minutes of looking at the cozy, heat-giving fire, the deer walked right down the steps and out the front door.

“I went out behind her and sent her with a prayer. In the morning, I followed her tracks and discovered she had slept in the woods right beside the house. Then I saw her. Standing twenty feet from me. She looked at me and did these little springy jump jumps and walked toward the stream. My heart was literally exploding with joy,” LaHaye said.

LaHaye walked along and watched the fawn.

“I kept calling her Honey while pulling her from the water and massaging her in my living room, so I wished Honey safety, food abundance, and to find her herd again. I may have also told her she was welcome to come inside by my fire anytime,” she said.

And the deer? She is staying close by. LaHaye tracked her again last Sunday.

“She is sticking around my house. I believe she is part of a herd of four that I see in the orchard a lot. I believe she is waiting for them to cross back through and reconnect,” LaHaye said and added, “I welcome the entire family to stay.”

Bar Harbor Story is a reader-supported publication. To receive new posts and support my work, consider becoming a free or paid subscriber. Many thanks to Abby for letting us know about Machelle and the deer. And thank you for being here with me!

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