Deer struggle to cross thin ice at Lucky Peak

Credit: Ryan Hilliard/KTVB

Deer struggle to cross thin ice at Lucky Peak

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by Bonnie Shelton

Bio | Email | Follow: @BonnieKTVB

KTVB.COM

Posted on December 16, 2013 at 5:48 PM

Updated Tuesday, Dec 17 at 12:07 PM

BOISE -- Thin ice is causing a problem for wildlife at Lucky Peak Reservoir.

About a dozen deer have gotten stuck while trying to cross the water near Arrowrock Dam.

Unfortunately, Idaho Fish and Game employees say there's not much they can do when the ice is so thin. It's too dangerous to try and rescue the deer that are trapped.

But, people who fish near the dam say seeing the animals struggle is tough.

Mark Olsen has been driving from Nampa to Lucky Peak for years.

"We come up here to enjoy the wildlife and to fish," said Olsen.

But last week, something different caught his attention.  Deer stuck in thin ice near Arrowrock Dam.

"We were told about it and came down and took a look and were concerned for the animals," said Olsen.

While some deer are able to get back to shore, others haven't been so lucky.

Olsen says he's offered to help Fish and Game rescue some of the animals, but he was told it's too dangerous.

"If they're not going to do something to rescue them, they should put them down," said Olsen.

Regional wildlife managers say they have shot some of the deer that broke bones and had no chance of survival.

"Just the humane thing to do would be to euthanize it," said Jerry Deal with the Idaho Department of Fish and Game.

But other deer still have the chance to make it out alive.

Fish and Game representatives say if the ice is too thin for deer; it's even more dangerous for humans. They say people need to let nature take its course.

"It's really heartbreaking to watch, but there's not much that can be done for it often times either," said Deal.

Since Lucky Peak Reservoir was filled in the 1950s, this has been a recurring problem in different areas of the reservoir during winter.

Deer can't find traction with their hooves and they fall trying to take a familiar path.

"It just depends so much on the ice formation," said Deal.

Olsen says he understands the need to keep people safe, but he feels for the animals trapped near the dam.

"It's heartbreaking because we don't have animals anymore. I've hunted for 30 years and I hunt now. There are no animals," said Olsen.

Fish and Game employees say they're watching the situation closely and doing what they can to manage it.

Wildlife managers say it's hard to prevent this from happening, because it's difficult to predict where the deer will decide to cross the water, and it's impossible to know where and how thick the ice will form each year.

At least five deer have died near Arrowrock Dam in the last few days.

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