Deer plucked from river in chaotic `rescue'

4 swimming in Patapsco are moved to state park

April 06, 2005|By Ryan Davis | Ryan Davis,SUN STAFF

Deer can swim.

It's a simple fact that eluded one Patapsco River boater yesterday, setting in motion an afternoon of chaos at Fort McHenry.

Robert Kimbrell of Fort Meade and his wife went fishing for rockfish - and they caught four white-tail deer.

About noon, Kimbrell was navigating his way west on the Patapsco River toward Fort McHenry.

"All I saw was heads and necks sticking up out of the water," he recalled. "I said, `Oh my God! There's deer out in the middle of the ... water.'"

The group of seven deer appeared to be swimming from Fort McHenry toward the auto terminal on the south end of the Harbor Tunnel, a mile away, Kimbrell said. They might have been heading to the Inner Harbor. And from Kimbrell's perspective, they were struggling.

So began the great deer rescue.

Kimbrell's wife, Julia, pulled the boat to the deer, about a quarter-mile from land, he said.

"The wife took the boat, and I just reached down and grabbed a handful of ears," the 34-year- old furniture salesman said.

Kimbrell hogtied his catch. It was limp, he said.

He said he brought two deer ashore at the Fort McHenry fire boat station, yelled to firefighters for help, returned to the water and caught more deer. He said he herded two more onto land with his 20-foot utility boat.

The last deer caused a stir, he said. It ran onto land, got spooked by the gathering crowd and ran back into the water, Kimbrell said. A police boat arrived about 1:15 p.m. to help.

"I kind of lassoed it," said Officer Dan Fickus of the city police marine unit.

The officers and firefighters eased the wet deer ashore. In all, they "secured" four deer, Fickus said, tying their legs and covering their faces with blankets to calm them.

Those deer were released yesterday afternoon at Patapsco Valley State Park, said Paul A. Peditto, head of the Department of Natural Resources' Wildlife and Heritage Service. He said the deer might live beside Fort McHenry.

He added: "They're excellent swimmers; there's no chance they were going to drown."

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