Local News

Search and rescue saves dog; deer drowns in icy lake

A family dog is safe and sound, but a deer is dead after an unconventional rescue operation in Sitka yesterday morning. The dog had chased the deer out onto a frozen Thimbleberry Lake when both fell through the ice.

The dog’s owner called Sitka Mountain Rescue to try and save it.

Search and rescue captain Don Kluting said, “There was an open area in the water where there was no ice, really thin ice where the deer and dog had ventured out on to and fallen through and it looks like the dog was chasing the deer and ended up out and both fell in the water.”

By that time the deer was dead. But the dog was still swimming, and Kluting got a chance to practice ice rescue techniques typically meant for humans.

“Gerald Gangle and I were able to make a decision that we could safely do this and that there was low risk to the rescuers,” said Kluting.

Search and rescue team member Gerald Gangle held a cable fastened to Kluting, as Kluting, dressed in a dry suit, ventured out onto the ice.

Kluting broke through the ice and waded through chest deep water to grab the dog.

When the dog reached shore, it had hypothermia.  But was able to run to its owner. It completely recovered at home within the hour.

Kluting says this was a surprise considering the circumstances. “The owners suggested that it had been in the water for about an hour, which is pretty phenomenal actually considering that the deer succumbed to hypothermia.”

Kluting and Gangle also retrieved the deer, a large buck, and donated it to hunters after checking with Alaska Wildlife Troopers.

Kluting said, “our main concern at that point was if we can safely recover the deer. That’s number one, and number two we want to make sure that the meat is not wasted, that it is salvaged and utilized.”

Kluting says the owner was thrilled that the team was able to save their family member.

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