Winsted-Lester Prairie Journal, Dec. 4, 2000

Fire department rescues deer caught on ice at Winsted Lake

By Lynda Jensen

For three hours, Ray Mortag watched a doe struggle on the ice last Friday from his living room window at south side of Winsted Lake.

"It was getting tired," he said of the animal. Its movements got slower and slower. Concerned about it, he called the sheriff's office and was told they couldn't do anything about it.

The deer was caught on the ice about halfway between the city and the point, Mortag said.

He couldn't just stand by and watch it die on the ice, so he kept trying to find help.

He called the Department of Natural Resources and left a message.

Mortag then turned to Bob Bayerl of the Winsted Fire Department for help.

The department responded with its cold water rescue equipment in short order.

In addition to helping the animal, it was a chance for the department to test its cold water rescue equipment, said Fire Chief Paul Herbolsheimer, including a recently donated rescue boat given by Jason Telecky.

"The deer didn't break through (the ice)," Herbolsheimer said, "but it couldn't stand."

Four Gumby suits were used on the ice, which are kind of like full body life jackets, Herbolsheimer said. The suits are buoyant and good in very cold water, he said.

The Gumby suit rescuers were Brad Millerbernd, Brad Bush, Bill Norman, and Jamie Stotko.

This is exactly what the department would use if it had to rescue a child that wandered on thin ice, Herbolsheimer said.

"We're crossing our fingers that it will never happen," he said.

The fire department is working toward being more equipped, Herbolsheimer said. The rescue boat used in the deer situation does not have all the necessary equipment, he added.

"I enjoy nature," Mortag said. "I have never seen a deer on the ice before," he said. The Mortags live on South Shore Drive.

Mortag thought the deer was one that was previously reported near town, possibly injured.

The DNR returned his call promptly Monday morning, Mortag said.

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