UPDATE: Deer on thin Skaha Lake ice struggles to shore just as rescuers prepare to help

Penticton Fire Department's rescue team and Conservation officer Mike Stern watch as the deer they were preparing to rescue struggles on its own to make its way back to shore, Friday, Jan. 6, 2017.

PENTICTON - Residents of Okanagan Falls who watched helplessly today as a deer struggled to free itself from the ice on Skaha Lake were relieved to see the animal free itself, just as rescuers were preparing to retrieve it.

Members of the Penticton Fire Deparment rescue team and B.C. Conservation officer Mike Stern attended the scene at the Okanagan Falls boat launch shortly before noon today, Jan. 6, after hearing residents considering launching a rescue of their own.

Penticton Fire Department captain Graham Vujcich says his team was dispatched from Penticton after hearing reports of residents attempting a rescue.

The animal was stuck in newly formed ice roughly 100 metres off shore, and appeared to be having difficulty maintaining its footing.

As the rescue team prepared to extricate the deer it  managed to free itself and began making its way to shore.

The rescue team were able to assist the deer the final few feet to land, where it managed to move away on its own.

A deer struggles to free itself from the ice on Skaha Lake near Okanagan Falls today Jan 6, 2017.
A deer struggles to free itself from the ice on Skaha Lake near Okanagan Falls today Jan 6, 2017.

Okanagan Falls resident Rhonda McLean says she called the B.C. Conservation Service after spotting the deer struggling this morning and was told the deer was too far out in the lake for anything to be done.

“I was hoping it will be able to free itself, “ she says, shouting her thanks to the would-be rescuers.

Paul Pritchard says he noticed the deer while walking his dog. He too called the Conservation Service, as well as the local fire department, who told him it wasn’t their responsibility.

“The conservation officer told me they couldn’t even risk shooting the deer, because of the possibility of a ricochet, with all the residences nearby,” Pritchard says.

Stern says it’s important people understand deer in the wild often wander onto ice and encounter these types of situations.

"It’s part of Mother Nature most of the time we don’t see it," Stern says.

He says this was a case of an urban deer sympathetic residents were trying to rescue on their own, creating a dangerous and possilby tragic situation.

— This story was updated at 2:20 p.m., Friday, Jan. 6, 2017 to provide information regarding the deer making it's own way off the ice.

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