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One woman's call leads to rescuing deer that struggled for hours in Minnesota's icy Gull River

Nov 10, 2017 12:30PM ● Published by Editor

By Renee Richardson of The Duluth News Tribune - November 20, 2017

GULL RIVER, Minn. — Movement on the already icy Gull River caught a resident's attention Thursday, but it took binoculars to determine it was a deer struggling to survive in the cold water.

Ione Soyett watched the deer flailing in the water from her riverside home after it broke through the ice during an attempted river crossing and felt she had to do something. She first noticed the deer's plight about 8:30 a.m. and began to call agencies she thought might be able to help, including the sheriff's office and, naturally, the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources.

"The animal is struggling," Soyett said. "It needed help. It's just a human interest thing—you've got to do something."

Her husband Tom also searched for numbers and eventually they connected with Conservation Officer Eric Sullivan, who was working in the field. Soyett was able to direct Sullivan to a private river landing with access to the open water. The Soyetts had to leave the drama unfolding before them to deliver Meals on Wheels. When she got back to the house she saw a DNR boat going into the water and the deer still there fighting to stay alive. Then she watched, waited and prayed.

"My heart was pounding," she said. "I kept thinking should I be praying here—I said why not."

She watched as Sullivan's boat had to cut through the ice to reach the stranded and now exhausted deer and worried how he would manage to move the animal on his own.

Responding to the call of a deer in distress, Sullivan had additional struggles with a boat motor that was overheating because of a frozen cooling system. Sullivan, who served for nine years as a Baxter Police officer, has been with the DNR for less than three years. He estimated 200 yards of ice stood between the open water and the deer. About an inch-and-a-half of ice already formed on the river with pockets of open water. Sullivan was able to negotiate through the mixture to reach the deer, a spike buck weighing an estimated 150 pounds. By this time, the young buck had been struggling in the water for at least three hours.

From their vantage point in the Gull River home, the Soyetts continued to watch and hope.

"I kept thinking c'mon deer, you can hang on," Ione Soyett said.

Sullivan was able to get a strap around the buck's shoulders and guide the deer to his boat. He lifted the deer inside the boat. Ice clung to the young deer's eyelashes, ears and neck. The deer looked dazed.

Sullivan moved the deer to safer ice, but the buck didn't move. So Sullivan again plucked the deer from the ice and into his boat to head for shore where he met Mike Lee, the DNR regional training officer. Together they took the buck to the Garrison Animal Hospital and its Wild and Free Wildlife Rehabilitation Program.

Rare opportunity

Dr. Katie Baratto, a veterinarian with the Garrison Animal Hospital for 10 years, said the buck presented a rare opportunity to help an adult deer.

"So this is kind of a cool case," she said.

Baratto, who has been active at the animal hospital since she was a teenager and a decade before she became a vet, said they often work with injured or orphaned fawns, but adult deer are more rare because they don't do well in long-term rehab.

As of late Thursday afternoon, the buck was doing OK, Baratto said. When he first came in he was in rougher shape, but she said the deer was perking up.

"He's lifting his head now," she said. When he came in, the buck's core temperature was too low to even register. But they bedded him in straw to warm him and provided medicine.

"We'll see how he's doing tomorrow. If he's healthy and raring to go, he's going to be interesting to package up," she said. "We'll find out, maybe we'll call Mike and Eric and make them get in on that, too."

Wild and Free is a nonprofit wildlife program that functions entirely on donations and works to rescue, rehabilitate and release orphaned and injured wildlife.

Baratto praised Lee and Sullivan for their efforts.

"Kudos to them, that was cold work I bet," Baratto said.

The deer rescue was Sullivan's first. Most of the time, he said, when they get such a call, the animal will have worked themselves free or sometimes not have been able to survive until help arrived. In this buck's case, the timing was right. Any earlier and Sullivan noted the buck may have been too wild to be able to move as successfully.

Making a difference

For Sullivan, the move to the DNR has been a complete lifestyle change.

"I love it," he said of being outdoors, on the water and interacting with people.

Asked what the takeaway should be in trying on a frigid day to save one deer in the midst of deer-hunting season, Sullivan said people work in natural resources because of a passion for wildlife and a passion to do their part, no matter what it is.

To watch a cherished animal struggle and potentially die on the ice without anyone trying to do something to save it is tough, he said. And to save one when they have the time and resources is a good outcome.

That's what Ione Soyett was hoping for as well. She's been a resident along the river for 41 years with 13 of those as a permanent resident. She's enjoys seeing the wildlife—wolves, bear, deer, all variety of birds—entire grouse and turkey families this year. She said saving one deer has its own ripple effects. Soyett said she told Sullivan it was his good deed of the day.

"There are not enough good things happening in this world," she said. "You have to have some good things."

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    11/28/2017
    04:00PM — 06:00PM

    A celebratory 20th anniversary exhibit titled Begin | Continue will feature the work of North Hou...


  • Trivia Night at Grandma Ray's

    11/28/2017
    07:00PM — 09:00PM

    Trivia Night from 7:00-9:00pm every Tuesday down at Grandma Ray's.


  • Terra Bella Floral fall hours

    11/29/2017
    12:00AM

    Monday and Tuesday Noon to 6 Wednesday through Friday 10 to 4 Saturday 10 to 2 Sunday Closed


  • YMCA Classes

    11/29/2017
    12:00AM

    Click to view our current list of Group Exercise classes, pool schedule and gym schedule!


  • Day Pass Sale

    11/29/2017
    06:00AM

    The Day Pass Sale is back! Shop Local November 24th-29th Give the gift of health and share a vis...


  • Blue Water Suite

    11/29/2017
    09:00AM

    Blue Water Suite is open for a one of a kind stay. Located above the Blue Water Café, lots of r...


  • Annual 20% off Customer Appreciation Sale

    11/29/2017
    09:00AM — 05:00PM

    Come in to Lake Superior Trading Post and save 20% off on all merchandise in stock, this includes...


  • Anxiety/Depression Support Group for Women

    11/29/2017
    10:00AM — 11:00AM

    Weekly support group for women. $2.00 suggested donation. No registration required. Please joi...


  • Lunch at the Senior Center

    11/29/2017
    12:00PM — 12:30PM

    Tatertot Hotdish/Fruit/ Dessert/Milk


  • Lunch at the Senior Center

    11/29/2017
    12:00PM — 12:30PM

    Spaghetti/Salad/Pudding/Milk


  • 20th anniversary exhibit, Begin | Continue

    11/29/2017
    04:00PM — 06:00PM

    A celebratory 20th anniversary exhibit titled Begin | Continue will feature the work of North Hou...


  • Craft and a Craft Market

    11/29/2017
    04:30PM — 06:30PM

    Voyageur Brewing is proud to host weekly craft markets until Christmas with local Cook County art...


  • Beginning Swedish language- 4 sessions

    11/29/2017
    05:30PM — 07:00PM

    Beginning Swedish Language - 4 sessions Instructor: Rose Arrowsmith DeCoux Dates: November 1st,...


  • Name that Tune Bingo

    11/29/2017
    06:30PM — 07:30PM

    Think you know music? Prove it! Join host Casey for Name that Tune bingo on Wednesday, November ...


  • Square Dance Lessons

    11/29/2017
    07:30PM — 09:00PM

    Modern Western Square Dance Schedule for November 30 through January 25. Time: 7:30 – 9:00 PM...


  • Terra Bella Floral fall hours

    11/30/2017
    12:00AM

    Monday and Tuesday Noon to 6 Wednesday through Friday 10 to 4 Saturday 10 to 2 Sunday Closed


  • YMCA Classes

    11/30/2017
    12:00AM

    Click to view our current list of Group Exercise classes, pool schedule and gym schedule!


  • Annual 20% off Customer Appreciation Sale

    11/30/2017
    09:00AM — 05:00PM

    Come in to Lake Superior Trading Post and save 20% off on all merchandise in stock, this includes...


  • Lunch at the Senior Center

    11/30/2017
    12:00PM — 12:30PM

    BBQ Chicken/Baled Potato/Coleslaw/Jello/Milk


  • 20th anniversary exhibit, Begin | Continue

    11/30/2017
    04:00PM — 06:00PM

    A celebratory 20th anniversary exhibit titled Begin | Continue will feature the work of North Hou...


  • Alcoholics Anonymous

    11/30/2017
    06:30PM

    Alcoholics Anonymous is a fellowship of men and women who share their experience, strength and ho...


  • Square Dance Lessons

    11/30/2017
    07:30PM — 09:00PM

    Modern Western Square Dance Schedule for November 30 through January 25. Time: 7:30 – 9:00 PM...


  • Terra Bella Floral fall hours

    12/01/2017
    12:00AM

    Monday and Tuesday Noon to 6 Wednesday through Friday 10 to 4 Saturday 10 to 2 Sunday Closed


  • YMCA Classes

    12/01/2017
    12:00AM

    Click to view our current list of Group Exercise classes, pool schedule and gym schedule!


  • Annual 20% off Customer Appreciation Sale

    12/01/2017
    09:00AM — 05:00PM

    Come in to Lake Superior Trading Post and save 20% off on all merchandise in stock, this includes...


  • Lunch at the Senior Center

    12/01/2017
    12:00PM — 12:55PM

    Polish Sausage/ Sauerkraut/ Potato/Dessert/Milk


  • 20th anniversary exhibit, Begin | Continue

    12/01/2017
    04:00PM — 06:00PM

    A celebratory 20th anniversary exhibit titled Begin | Continue will feature the work of North Hou...


  • Terra Bella Floral fall hours

    12/02/2017
    12:00AM

    Monday and Tuesday Noon to 6 Wednesday through Friday 10 to 4 Saturday 10 to 2 Sunday Closed


  • YMCA Classes

    12/02/2017
    12:00AM

    Click to view our current list of Group Exercise classes, pool schedule and gym schedule!


  • Trails Final Check

    12/02/2017
    09:00AM — 02:00PM

    We welcome you to join us at 9 a.m. at the Groomer building on Caribou Trail to do the final trai...


  • Annual 20% off Customer Appreciation Sale

    12/02/2017
    09:00AM — 05:00PM

    Come in to Lake Superior Trading Post and save 20% off on all merchandise in stock, this includes...


  • Northwoods Fiber Guild Annual Holiday Sale will be on Saturday, December 2nd from 9:00am-2:00pm. ...


  • 20th anniversary exhibit, Begin | Continue

    12/02/2017
    04:00PM — 06:00PM

    A celebratory 20th anniversary exhibit titled Begin | Continue will feature the work of North Hou...


  • Square Dance Lessons

    12/02/2017
    07:30PM — 09:00PM

    Modern Western Square Dance Schedule for November 30 through January 25. Time: 7:30 – 9:00 PM...


  • Terra Bella Floral fall hours

    12/03/2017
    12:00AM

    Monday and Tuesday Noon to 6 Wednesday through Friday 10 to 4 Saturday 10 to 2 Sunday Closed


  • YMCA Classes

    12/03/2017
    12:00AM

    Click to view our current list of Group Exercise classes, pool schedule and gym schedule!


  • Holiday Movies in the Brewery

    12/03/2017
    12:30PM — 02:00PM

    Are you craving some beer with your holiday cheer? We will see you at Voyageur Brewing Company on...


  • 20th anniversary exhibit, Begin | Continue

    12/03/2017
    04:00PM — 06:00PM

    A celebratory 20th anniversary exhibit titled Begin | Continue will feature the work of North Hou...


  • Alcoholics Anonymous

    12/03/2017
    06:30PM — 07:30PM

    Alcoholics Anonymous is a fellowship of men and women who share their experience, strength and ho...


  • Terra Bella Floral fall hours

    12/04/2017
    12:00AM

    Monday and Tuesday Noon to 6 Wednesday through Friday 10 to 4 Saturday 10 to 2 Sunday Closed


  • YMCA Classes

    12/04/2017
    12:00AM

    Click to view our current list of Group Exercise classes, pool schedule and gym schedule!


  • Lunch at the Senior Center

    12/04/2017
    12:00PM — 12:30PM

    Chicken Stew with Dumplings/Brussels Sprouts/Fruit/Milk


  • 20th anniversary exhibit, Begin | Continue

    12/04/2017
    04:00PM — 06:00PM

    A celebratory 20th anniversary exhibit titled Begin | Continue will feature the work of North Hou...


  • Co-Dependents Anonymous

    12/04/2017
    05:30PM

    Co-Dependents Anonymous is a Fellowship of men and women whose common purpose is to develop healt...


  • Open Mic Every Monday at 6PM!

    12/04/2017
    06:00PM — 11:55PM

    Grand Marais Music Collaborative presents "Open Mic Night", every Monday at Grandma Ray's! The s...


  • Square Dance Lessons

    12/04/2017
    07:30PM — 09:00PM

    Modern Western Square Dance Schedule for November 30 through January 25. Time: 7:30 – 9:00 PM...


  • Terra Bella Floral fall hours

    12/05/2017
    12:00AM

    Monday and Tuesday Noon to 6 Wednesday through Friday 10 to 4 Saturday 10 to 2 Sunday Closed


  • YMCA Classes

    12/05/2017
    12:00AM

    Click to view our current list of Group Exercise classes, pool schedule and gym schedule!


  • Overeaters Anonymous

    12/05/2017
    11:00AM

    Overeaters Anonymous is a fellowship of individuals who, through shared experience, strength and...


  • Lunch at the Senior Center

    12/05/2017
    12:00PM — 12:30PM

    Tuna Hotdish/Salad/Fruit/Milk


  • 20th anniversary exhibit, Begin | Continue

    12/05/2017
    04:00PM — 06:00PM

    A celebratory 20th anniversary exhibit titled Begin | Continue will feature the work of North Hou...


  • Trivia Night at Grandma Ray's

    12/05/2017
    07:00PM — 09:00PM

    Trivia Night from 7:00-9:00pm every Tuesday down at Grandma Ray's.


  • Terra Bella Floral fall hours

    12/06/2017
    12:00AM

    Monday and Tuesday Noon to 6 Wednesday through Friday 10 to 4 Saturday 10 to 2 Sunday Closed


  • YMCA Classes

    12/06/2017
    12:00AM

    Click to view our current list of Group Exercise classes, pool schedule and gym schedule!


  • Anxiety/Depression Support Group for Women

    12/06/2017
    10:00AM — 11:00AM

    Weekly support group for women. $2.00 suggested donation. No registration required. Please joi...


  • Lunch at the Senior Center

    12/06/2017
    12:00PM — 12:30PM

    Meatloaf/Baked Potato/Beets/Dessert/Milk


  • 20th anniversary exhibit, Begin | Continue

    12/06/2017
    04:00PM — 06:00PM

    A celebratory 20th anniversary exhibit titled Begin | Continue will feature the work of North Hou...


  • Craft and a Craft Market

    12/06/2017
    04:30PM — 06:30PM

    Voyageur Brewing is proud to host weekly craft markets until Christmas with local Cook County art...


  • Square Dance Lessons

    12/06/2017
    07:30PM — 09:00PM

    Modern Western Square Dance Schedule for November 30 through January 25. Time: 7:30 – 9:00 PM...


  • Terra Bella Floral fall hours

    12/07/2017
    12:00AM

    Monday and Tuesday Noon to 6 Wednesday through Friday 10 to 4 Saturday 10 to 2 Sunday Closed


  • YMCA Classes

    12/07/2017
    12:00AM

    Click to view our current list of Group Exercise classes, pool schedule and gym schedule!


  • Lunch at the Senior Center

    12/07/2017
    12:00PM — 12:30PM

    Linda Johnson's Treat!!!


  • 20th anniversary exhibit, Begin | Continue

    12/07/2017
    04:00PM — 06:00PM

    A celebratory 20th anniversary exhibit titled Begin | Continue will feature the work of North Hou...


  • Light Up a Life

    12/07/2017
    05:30PM — 06:30PM

    The 9th Annual “Light up a Life” offers community members the opportunity to celebrate the life o...


  • Alcoholics Anonymous

    12/07/2017
    06:30PM

    Alcoholics Anonymous is a fellowship of men and women who share their experience, strength and ho...


  • Square Dance Lessons

    12/07/2017
    07:30PM — 09:00PM

    Modern Western Square Dance Schedule for November 30 through January 25. Time: 7:30 – 9:00 PM...


  • Terra Bella Floral fall hours

    12/08/2017
    12:00AM

    Monday and Tuesday Noon to 6 Wednesday through Friday 10 to 4 Saturday 10 to 2 Sunday Closed


  • YMCA Classes

    12/08/2017
    12:00AM

    Click to view our current list of Group Exercise classes, pool schedule and gym schedule!


  • Caregiver Coffee - Tofte

    12/08/2017
    10:00AM — 11:30AM

    Caregiver Coffee Join us to get to know other caregivers in a casual setting. Take part in a d...


  • Lunch at the Senior Center

    12/08/2017
    12:00PM — 12:30PM

    Beef Stew/Salad/Biscuit/Dessert/Milk


  • Legends of the Wilderness

    12/08/2017
    01:30PM — 02:30PM

    Experience the wilderness through reenactment of the 1800s with French Canadian Voyageur Jacques ...


  • 20th anniversary exhibit, Begin | Continue

    12/08/2017
    04:00PM — 06:00PM

    A celebratory 20th anniversary exhibit titled Begin | Continue will feature the work of North Hou...


  • Terra Bella Floral fall hours

    12/09/2017
    12:00AM

    Monday and Tuesday Noon to 6 Wednesday through Friday 10 to 4 Saturday 10 to 2 Sunday Closed


  • YMCA Classes

    12/09/2017
    12:00AM

    Click to view our current list of Group Exercise classes, pool schedule and gym schedule!


  • 20th anniversary exhibit, Begin | Continue

    12/09/2017
    04:00PM — 06:00PM

    A celebratory 20th anniversary exhibit titled Begin | Continue will feature the work of North Hou...


  • In the spirit of gratitude, pride, and recognition of the community that has valued and fostered ...


  • Square Dance Lessons

    12/09/2017
    07:30PM — 09:00PM

    Modern Western Square Dance Schedule for November 30 through January 25. Time: 7:30 – 9:00 PM...


  • Terra Bella Floral fall hours

    12/10/2017
    12:00AM

    Monday and Tuesday Noon to 6 Wednesday through Friday 10 to 4 Saturday 10 to 2 Sunday Closed


  • YMCA Classes

    12/10/2017
    12:00AM

    Click to view our current list of Group Exercise classes, pool schedule and gym schedule!


  • Holiday Movies in the Brewery

    12/10/2017
    12:30PM — 02:00PM

    Are you craving some beer with your holiday cheer? We will see you at Voyageur Brewing Company on...


  • 20th anniversary exhibit, Begin | Continue

    12/10/2017
    04:00PM — 06:00PM

    A celebratory 20th anniversary exhibit titled Begin | Continue will feature the work of North Hou...


  • Alcoholics Anonymous

    12/10/2017
    06:30PM — 07:30PM

    Alcoholics Anonymous is a fellowship of men and women who share their experience, strength and ho...


  • Terra Bella Floral fall hours

    12/11/2017
    12:00AM

    Monday and Tuesday Noon to 6 Wednesday through Friday 10 to 4 Saturday 10 to 2 Sunday Closed


  • YMCA Classes

    12/11/2017
    12:00AM

    Click to view our current list of Group Exercise classes, pool schedule and gym schedule!


  • Lunch at the Senior Center

    12/11/2017
    12:00PM — 12:30PM

    Boiled Dinner/Biscuit/Fruit/Milk


  • 20th anniversary exhibit, Begin | Continue

    12/11/2017
    04:00PM — 06:00PM

    A celebratory 20th anniversary exhibit titled Begin | Continue will feature the work of North Hou...


  • Co-Dependents Anonymous

    12/11/2017
    05:30PM

    Co-Dependents Anonymous is a Fellowship of men and women whose common purpose is to develop healt...


  • Open Mic Every Monday at 6PM!

    12/11/2017
    06:00PM — 11:55PM

    Grand Marais Music Collaborative presents "Open Mic Night", every Monday at Grandma Ray's! The s...


  • Over 75 talented Cook County singers and musicians in the Borealis Chorale & Orchestra continue t...


  • Square Dance Lessons

    12/11/2017
    07:30PM — 09:00PM

    Modern Western Square Dance Schedule for November 30 through January 25. Time: 7:30 – 9:00 PM...


  • Terra Bella Floral fall hours

    12/12/2017
    12:00AM

    Monday and Tuesday Noon to 6 Wednesday through Friday 10 to 4 Saturday 10 to 2 Sunday Closed


  • YMCA Classes

    12/12/2017
    12:00AM

    Click to view our current list of Group Exercise classes, pool schedule and gym schedule!


  • Overeaters Anonymous

    12/12/2017
    11:00AM

    Overeaters Anonymous is a fellowship of individuals who, through shared experience, strength and...


  • Taco Tuesday Fundraiser Luncheon

    12/12/2017
    11:30AM — 01:30PM

    We are raising money for our dear friend & co-worker, Jennifer Rue, who is dealing with long term...


  • Lunch at the Senior Center

    12/12/2017
    12:00PM — 12:30PM

    Sweet & Sour Pork/Broccoli/Rice/Dessert/Milk


  • 20th anniversary exhibit, Begin | Continue

    12/12/2017
    04:00PM — 06:00PM

    A celebratory 20th anniversary exhibit titled Begin | Continue will feature the work of North Hou...


  • Trivia Night at Grandma Ray's

    12/12/2017
    07:00PM — 09:00PM

    Trivia Night from 7:00-9:00pm every Tuesday down at Grandma Ray's.


  • Terra Bella Floral fall hours

    12/13/2017
    12:00AM

    Monday and Tuesday Noon to 6 Wednesday through Friday 10 to 4 Saturday 10 to 2 Sunday Closed


  • YMCA Classes

    12/13/2017
    12:00AM

    Click to view our current list of Group Exercise classes, pool schedule and gym schedule!


  • Anxiety/Depression Support Group for Women

    12/13/2017
    10:00AM — 11:00AM

    Weekly support group for women. $2.00 suggested donation. No registration required. Please joi...


  • Lunch at the Senior Center

    12/13/2017
    12:00PM — 12:30PM

    Fish/Baked Potato/Corn Pudding/Cake/Milk


  • 20th anniversary exhibit, Begin | Continue

    12/13/2017
    04:00PM — 06:00PM

    A celebratory 20th anniversary exhibit titled Begin | Continue will feature the work of North Hou...


  • Craft and a Craft Market

    12/13/2017
    04:30PM — 06:30PM

    Voyageur Brewing is proud to host weekly craft markets until Christmas with local Cook County art...


  • Square Dance Lessons

    12/13/2017
    07:30PM — 09:00PM

    Modern Western Square Dance Schedule for November 30 through January 25. Time: 7:30 – 9:00 PM...


  • Terra Bella Floral fall hours

    12/14/2017
    12:00AM

    Monday and Tuesday Noon to 6 Wednesday through Friday 10 to 4 Saturday 10 to 2 Sunday Closed


  • YMCA Classes

    12/14/2017
    12:00AM

    Click to view our current list of Group Exercise classes, pool schedule and gym schedule!


  • Lunch at the Senior Center

    12/14/2017
    12:00PM — 12:40PM

    Swedish Meatballs/Potato/Green Bean/Dessert/Milk


  • 20th anniversary exhibit, Begin | Continue

    12/14/2017
    04:00PM — 06:00PM

    A celebratory 20th anniversary exhibit titled Begin | Continue will feature the work of North Hou...


  • Alcoholics Anonymous

    12/14/2017
    06:30PM

    Alcoholics Anonymous is a fellowship of men and women who share their experience, strength and ho...


  • Square Dance Lessons

    12/14/2017
    07:30PM — 09:00PM

    Modern Western Square Dance Schedule for November 30 through January 25. Time: 7:30 – 9:00 PM...


Minnesota Fire Danger
Boreal Ship Spotter - larger view here