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Hovercraft used to rescue deer stranded on icy Lake Superior

MLive Michigan
Jan. 16, 2017
By Justin P. Hicks

ALGER COUNTY, MI -- Emergency crews used a hovercraft and heating packs to rescue and treat a pair of deer that had fallen through - and were stranded on - and icy channel of Lake Superior.

The deer -- a doe and its fawn -- were initially spotted Sunday, Jan. 15 by a passerby who noticed two figures on the ice near the whirlpool in Munising.

Emergency crews were dispatched to the area, arriving with a manned hovercraft often used for the ice rescue of people. Using the approximately 21-foot craft, officers were able to get out to the deer and use rope to help them back to shore.

The rescue took about 60-90 minutes, according to Undersheriff Steve Blank. "They were exhausted when we got out there," Blank said. "They were in the water for quite some time, and got back up on the ice. They were so worn out, they walked alongside the hovercraft."

Once on shore, crews used heating packs and blankets to warm the deer. Blank said the fawn wasn't doing as well as the doe initially, but both were gone when the area was checked again later.

"Had we not gone out there, there were some predators waiting, too," he said. "We had a couple people, including the retired sheriff, who saw a couple coyotes over there. But when the hovercraft went over, they ran back."

Alger County has had the hovercraft for about five years, using it primarily for ice rescues, among other situations. It is operated by one person, with room inside for another three people. Police said the craft was used a second time over the weekend to get workers out to Grand Island after a utility line fell down on a trail.

"I'd say we use it once every two weeks, either to use it or to train with it, but it varies," Blank said. "It's a great, great tool, especially for a department that lives on the water. We have so many people who utilize the waters around here, and we assist other departments with it, too." Alger County was assisted throughout the rescue by crews from the Department of Natural Resources, Michigan State Police and Rescue 21. Several locals also gathered to watch as the mission developed.

Hovercraft Deer rescue image
Members of the Alger County Sheriff's Office use a hovercraft to rescue two deer from the icy Lake Superior on Sunday, Jan. 15, 2017 in Alger County, Mich. (Photo courtesy Bruce Cromell)
Image Hovertechnics Hovercraft Alger County Sheriff Ice rescue
(Left to right) Trooper Jeff Seaberg, DNR Officer Mark Zitnik, Deputy Ted Woodaz, Det/Lt. Matthew Waldron, and David Mannisto pose in front of the Alger County Sheriff's Office hovercraft after completing a rescue mission of two deer on Sunday, Jan. 15, 2016 in Alger County. (Photo courtesy Bruce Cromell)

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