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An unidentified passerby carries a young deer across the road at Brighton Beach on May 24. The deer appeared to be weakened after swimming in Lake Superior for about 45 minutes, said Rich Koivisto. (Photo by Rich Koivisto)

Young deer gives up on swimming to Superior from Brighton Beach

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Rich Koivisto can't figure out where the yearling whitetail thought it was going when it began swimming across Lake Superior.

Koivisto and his wife, Bette, had stopped by Brighton Beach at the east end of Duluth on May 24 and noticed the young deer swimming toward Wisconsin.

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"The deer was about 50 feet out there," said Koivisto, of Duluth. "He went out to where we could barely see his ears. Then he headed northeast."

The Koivistos, with relatives from Washington state, watched the deer swim in the lake for about 45 minutes. The surface temperature of the lake is about 47 to 53 degrees, according to anglers trolling for trout and salmon. The deer swam northeast for about a block or two, Koivisto said.

"Then he turned back toward the shore," he said. "He pulled up on the rocky part of the shore. He struggled to get there and flopped down on the rocks."

The rocks in that part of the beach are big and jumbled. A passerby who saw the deer's plight took action, Koivisto said.

"This guy picked him up and carried him across the road. He dropped him off, and he (the deer) took off in the brush," Koivisto said. "He was moving pretty good. I'll bet once he got in the woods, he laid down."

Bob Kirsch, Department of Natural Resources area wildlife manager at Two Harbors, said he has heard of -- and seen -- deer swimming from the Minnesota shore toward Wisconsin before. But he doesn't know what compels them to do so.

"You have enough deer, one of them is bound to do something silly," Kirsch said. "Deer can swim like fish, with that hollow hair. Why they do it, I don't know. To see the other side? To go where no other deer has gone before?"

He had one other theory.

"The only other thing is, it could be so intimidated about crossing roads, it thought swimming out in the lake was a better option," Kirsch said.

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