This deer was rescued after it was found swimming in circles along the Hakai Pass. (Submitted photo)

Distressed deer rescued from ocean in Hakai Pass by Parksville pair

Claytons were out to catch fish but brought a doe aboard instead

While fishing the Hakai Pass north of Vancouver Island, Doreen and Wayne Clayton came across a strange sight – a deer swimming in circles.

Through heavy fog, they barely made out its distressed figure in the water. As they slowly approached, watching for any forms of danger, the deer swam towards them and stopped.

“She swam right up to Wayne on the side, and I rigged up some rope and hoisted her aboard,” said Doreen, from Parksville, of the recent encounter.

Once on board, the deer collapsed and allowed Doreen to wrap a blanket around it. Doreen noted the animal didn’t appear to be injured, or in any other physical distress.

They then contacted the Coast Guard to ask for assistance and how best to remove the deer from their boat to get it back to land. The Coast Guard vessel Atlantic Rover was two to three hours south of their location and was able to meet them.

A few hours later, when it was time to rendezvous with the Coast Guard, the Claytons tried to approach the deer and it abruptly jumped overboard.

The fog had lifted and the shore was close by. The deer swam safely back to land with the Claytons following slowly behind.

Conservation officer Andrew Riddell said while he recommends people contact the conservation office before approaching a wild animal, he believes the couple saved the deer’s life. He said it would have been a different outcome if they had kept the deer in their cabin on board for a few days.

“Being in possession of live or dead wildlife without a permit is an offence,” he said.

The first thing people should do is contact the conservation office service and get guidance prior to rescuing any sort of wildlife, Riddell said. In this circumstance where the rescuers had the best interest of the animal in mind, and were not trying to do anything unlawful, they did the right thing.

“However, it’s always good for us to know anytime humans are in contact with wildlife,” he said.

Riddell said the deer was likely trying to cross a bay or canal, was caught by the tide and dragged out to sea, only to be further disoriented by the fog. The B.C. Conservation Officer Service can be reached at 1-877-952-7277 or via email through the government website.

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