Lanesborough firefighters rescue deer stranded on Pontoosuc ice


LANESBOROUGH — Donning thick, rubber gear, two town firefighters helped rescue a young deer stuck out on the frozen surface of Pontoosuc Lake on Wednesday morning, returning the animal to the safety of the woods.

A resident reported the struggling creature to Lanesborough Police Department, who responded by sending the firefighters.

Around 7:30 a.m., efforts began to rescue the deer, stranded roughly 150 feet out on the ice off Narragansett Avenue.

"It just couldn't get its grip enough to walk off the ice, so two of my guys put on cold-water rescue suits, went out on each side of it, lassoed it, got the thing back in onshore and now it's out in the woods doing what deer should do," Lanesborough Fire Chief Charles Durfee told town resident Harrison J. Searles Jr., who shoots footage for CBS 6 news out of Albany, N.Y., which ran a feature on the rescue.

Searles' video depicting the events, which he also uploaded to YouTube, was viewed by more than 5,000 people as of 9 a.m. Saturday.

The video shows the young deer kneeling hopelessly out on the ice while a half-dozen firefighters prepare for the rescue, two of them wearing the cumbersome cold-water gear.

As they approach, the animal tries to rise several times but it repeatedly falls down split-legged. With no snow having fallen, the surface of the ice was sheer with little hope of traction.

The firefighters secured the animal with a lasso-type device. Then one firefighter pulled the other, laying atop the deer as it whines anxiously, in a slide all the way to shore.

The deer then gets up and gallops into the woods.

Lanesborough Fire Captain Timothy Sayers did the pulling while Lanesborough firefighter Jon Lacasse rode the animal to shore.

"We're always available for anything that's needed," Sayers said. "We are very well-trained for ice and water rescues but rarely have to put that training to use. I've been on the department 13 years and only been out there a couple times to rescue snowmobilers who'd fallen through."

He added, "This was a relatively easy rescue. We were prepared to enter the water in order to give this guy the helping hand he needed."

In all, the operation took no more than 20 minutes. Timing is important in such rescues, as it is not uncommon for deer to die of injuries if they become stranded for too long out on a patch of ice.

Searles said in an interview, "Everyone was serious about what they were out there for, but you could also hear them laughing and joking around while the guy was riding the deer to shore. It's a pretty nasty, challenging job these fire guys have to do every day, and it's nice to see them get out there and do stuff like that. It's an opportunity to blow off some steam."

Contact Phil Demers at 413-496-6214.

On the web ...

Watch video of the rescue at


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