Duluth firefighters rescued a deer trapped in Lester River on Friday.

"I've never seen an animal that wanted to be helped as much as this deer did," firefighter Mike Chad said. "When I got down on the ice, it had a look in its eye like, 'Help me.'"

Chad and a crew from Duluth Fire Department Station 6 in the Lester Park neighborhood got a call at about 2:30 p.m., Friday, after a person using the Lester River Trails noticed a deer had fallen into the water and was in distress.

Upon arrival near the parking lot for Lester Park Trails and Playground, Chad could tell the animal was weak, cold and tired. It was foaming at the mouth, and had worn away fur on its forelegs trying to claw its way back onto the ice.

The deer didn't put up a fight, Chad said, as he and team member Carla Gamradt, a fire equipment operator, devised their rescue. Gamradt entered the 4-foot deep section of river in a water rescue suit, while Chad placed a rope lasso around the deer's neck. They pushed, pulled and coaxed the deer from the water.

Newsletter signup for email alerts

After it was out, firefighters used a chemically activated heat blanket to warm the shivering deer. It lingered, showing little verve, Chad said, as the firefighters pet it and dried it off.

They checked the deer for injuries, too. Chad called the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources, which told him deer can injure tendons when trying to escape from the edges of the ice.

After it had gathered strength, the deer decided it was time to go, taking a few wobbly steps before jumping and running up the riverbed.

"It perked up out of nowhere," said Chad, who let out a whoop of excitement as the deer took off.

The river never fully freezes in that area, Chad said, describing several spots where he could see ice and running water both. Two hours after the rescue, Chad remained abuzz from the rescue, something he'd never been a part of before. The elapsed time for the rescue was about 45 minutes, Chad estimated.

"It was awesome," he said. "We all looked at each other, like, 'Wow, we did it. We actually saved this animal.'"