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Duluth DNR officer frees deer -- twice

This whitetail deer became stuck between the railing of a doorstep in Duluth's Kenwood neighborhood on Monday night. A Department of Natural Resources officer pried the animal free. Submitted photo

DULUTH -- It was about 10:30 p.m. Monday when the scratching started outside their home.

Tara Richter and her husband, Richard Maclin, looked out the window to see what all the commotion was about. But they didn't see anything.

When the noises got louder about 11 p.m. and something started banging on the glass storm door, they finally opened the front door. That's when they saw a small deer stuck halfway through an iron railing along their front steps.

The button buck, which Tara Richter speculates had been feasting on their cedar tree, had tried to jump through the space between the posts when its hind legs got stuck.

"I was petting it, trying to tell him he would be all right. ... But it was still trying to get loose, so we went back in and called 911," Richter said.

That's when Minnesota Department of Natural Resources Conservation Officer Kipp Duncan was called in.

"I was sleeping when the call came, and my first thought was: 'Am I going to have to shoot this deer right alongside a house?' And that's exactly where it was. Right up against the house," Duncan said. "As it turned out, it was really funny. If we would have had a video of it, it would be a big hit right now."

Duncan speculates that the young deer was running along the house and tried to jump over the front steps, not seeing the black railing in the dark.

The deer's hind legs could barely touch the ground, while its front knees were on the front steps, unable to gain any leverage. Duncan wanted to avoid those powerful legs and sharp hooves.

Meanwhile, Tara and Richard went back into the house to avoid further spooking the deer.

Duncan, who didn't have his usual patrol truck and equipment at the time, borrowed a rope and managed to slip a loop under the deer's hind legs -- sort of "calf-roping" the deer from the rear. Then Duncan used a shovel to pry apart the railings just enough to push the deer through to freedom. The rescue appeared complete.

But the deer had other ideas on that 5 below zero night.

"He got up on all fours, turned around and tried to jump right back through the same railing," Duncan said, laughing while telling the story. "He got stuck in there again, but I managed to get in his way, and this time I just shoved him back ... and he ended up taking off down the steps."

Duncan, who has rescued lynx forest cats out of traps and once trapped a bear in a garbage can to get it out of a garage, said the stuck buck is probably the most humorous wildlife rescue he's made as a conservation officer.

"If you see a little buck out there with skun knees, that's the one," Duncan said. "But I'm sure he's fine otherwise."

So far, the buck hasn't come back

"We have a deer family that lives in our neighborhood," Richert said. "But we haven't seen this one back yet."