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Near and 'deer' to their heart: Volunteers, wildlife officials save stuck buck

Posted at 5:17 PM, Nov 06, 2019
and last updated 2019-11-06 18:21:18-05

CLEVELAND — After three days of tireless trying, a group of volunteers and a pair of conservation officials from ODNR rescued a stranded buck on Wednesday that had become stuck in an access pit below a decommissioned railroad bridge in the Flats West Bank.

The rusted yet majestic railroad bridge near Shooters on the Water is a popular spot for couples to have their engagement photos taken. That is precisely what Trish Westropp and her fiancée were doing Sunday afternoon when they spotted the young buck rummaging through the access pit.

“It’s been kind of a nightmare the past few days. I’ve had to work every day but I’ve been coming every night to give him carrots and water,” Westropp said. “My mom and brother have been coming every day helping him get out. Today was the day.”

The Westropps came back to the railroad bridge bright and early Wednesday morning, the third day in a row that they spent trying to free the tenacious buck. The deer, which appears to have fallen in the cavernous pit at some point over the weekend, had no way to escape because it was far too deep. There were also too many obstacles for the deer to move freely.

“We worked to try to get him out and gave him some avenues to get out. We gave him some time to try to get out calmly. Unfortunately, after several days, he just wasn’t finding his way out,” said Geoff Westerfield, a wildlife biologist at the Ohio Division of Wildlife. “In this case, there was a lot of crossbeams and everything moving around. There was a lot of trash and that kind of stuff. It was really making it difficult for him to leap out.”

Over the past several days, the volunteers have spent several hours each day trying to coax the buck up a makeshift ramp. After it appeared the ramp was not going to work, the Westropps and Ashley Brooks, a wildlife wrangler at Ace Wildlife Services, began digging a small tunnel that the buck – nicknamed Bucky – could squeeze through.

Tranquilizing the buck was not an option, Westerfield said.

“If you put drugs into a deer, we can’t just take it and let it go, especially this time of year, because hunting season is in and there are a lot of people harvesting deer right now,” Westerfield said. “If you consume that deer, you are consuming those drugs.”

Instead, the group used sticks and poles to bang on the walls of the metal pit to persuade Bucky into going through the tunnel. Then, around noon, it finally worked. A few minutes later, Bucky bounded over the wooden gate and began running toward the aquarium

Deer freed after getting stuck in the flats

“I just love animals so much. I have two golden retrievers and when you look at them in the face they kind of look like a deer,” Westropp said. “We have deer in my back yard and we feed them sometimes. We love them. They’re so cute. No one person could do this on their own.”

Deer carousing around downtown isn’t unheard of, Westerfield said. Next time, hopefully, Bucky asks for directions before taking his midnight stroll.

“He didn’t go millions of miles to get here. He’s grown up in this area. He knows this area very well,” Westerfield said. “He just made a left when he should have made a right and ended up in the pit.”

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