Amazing deer rescue pushes pilot into spotlight
David Farrell has been a helicopter pilot for almost 25 years and has flown thousands of hours, but it’s a short flight last month that has pushed him into the media spotlight.
Farrell, who works for the Nova Scotia Department of Natural Resources, was called out to Antigonish Harbour where a mother deer and her fawn had become trapped on thin ice.
He says he knew right away the animals were in serious trouble.
“There’s quite a current there and fast-moving water doesn’t freeze up as quick as fresh water…it gets brittle,” explains Farrell.
The fawn managed to run to shore, but the mother deer continued to struggle on the ice. Desperate to save the doe, Farrell thought of a trick he had used once before.
He flew the DNR helicopter down close to the animal and used the wind from its spinning blades to push the deer off the ice to safety.
“It looked more than doable. There was a nice clear path to shoreline with glazed ice,” says Farrell.
“Now these machines are fairly light, so you have to get very close, within four feet. Get them under the disc, which the blade spinning and that creates all this downwash. As long as you can keep that deer moving along the ice, it tends to calm down. I don’t know if it understands we’re trying to help or, I don’t know what’s going through its mind, but it works good.”
With Farrell’s help, the deer made it safely to shore.
Retired biologist Ian Waugh lives nearby and captured the scene on camera.
“I was waiting for a dart gun to come out, a tranquilizer gun to come out,” says Waugh, who first spotted the deer struggling on the ice and phoned the Department of Natural Resources.
“I was waiting for all kinds of different things, but that solution I was not prepared for, and I thought, just brilliant.”
Farrell says he didn’t even realize he was being filmed and didn’t expect to receive any attention over the rescue.
He says he was just doing the job he loves and is surprised the incident has become somewhat of an Internet sensation.
“You can do it a thousand times and it shows up on camera once, and then you can appreciate what you’re doing, spur-of-the-moment. It’s your job.”
Waugh isn’t certain where the deer are now, but says they were spotted walking in the woods together shortly after they were rescued.
With files from CTV Atlantic's Dan MacIntosh