Tom Satre and his family were cruising aboard Tom's boat the Alaska Quest in Taku Inlet in Alaska when they saw four deer swimming towards their charter boat.
The juvenile Sitka black-tail deer were obviously in distress and cold and tired battling 2 foot white-capped waves.
There was a strong wind in the Inlet and the deer were cold and tired. They were desperately looking for somewhere to go, but they were still around 1.2 miles (2 km) from shore. Tom and his family could see that the deer were close to drowning and decided to help.
"They swam right toward the boat," Tom said. "Then they started to circle the boat. They were looking up like they needed help." Tom knew they had to get the deer out of the water if they were to survive. But how to get them onboard?
"I formed a lasso with the mooring line and dropped it around their heads one at a time," said Tom. "They were about 85 pounds (39 kg), sopping wet. We were fortunate to have a low swim step at the stern, and I was able to pull them onboard. If we had to haul them over the side, I couldn’t have done it."
The deer willingly came onboard and sat on the deck. One of the deer was hypothermic so Tom administered massage to warm him. "The last one was in really poor shape. He was very hypothermic. I massaged him for 20 minutes trying to warm him up. He bleated like a little lamb. I think he was appreciative."
Tom's sister Sharon Kelly, his daughter Anna and brother Tim helped him with the deer.
It was an hour journey to the shore and when they arrived at Taku Harbor the deer had warmed up. One quickly jumped onto the dock and found its way into the forest.
Tom's sister Sharon Kelly, his daughter Anna and brother Tim helped him prompt the other deer out of the boat.
The last deer who had been hypothermic had to be put in a wheelbarrow and pushed off the boat. But the wheelbarrow had a flat so they waited at the dock as the deer warmed up enough to get to his feet.
With the deer safely on land, the family called the experience that occurred in October of 2010 one of those "defining moments in life".
Story and photos reprinted with permission from the Satre family. Tom Satre runs Alaska Quest Charters eco-tours from his boat the Alaska Quest.
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