Watch: A deer is finally freed, with some sedation, from a rope swing in Barrington
When Lake County sheriff's deputy Tommy Flores got the call regarding a rope and an entangled deer, he thought the animal might have wrapped itself around a tree.
Instead, he and his partner, deputy Ann Mock, encountered a much different and potentially dangerous situation Sunday morning in the backyard of a Barrington home.
A large, multi-pointed buck had snagged its huge rack of antlers in a loop at the end of a rope swing hung over a tree limb.
Limited by the length of the rope, the 160-pound buck was thrashing and jumping around a 30-foot-diameter circle trying to get loose.
"I didn't get too close," Flores said. "We have tools to deal with all types of situation, but not for this."
Realizing the situation likely would be beyond their expertise, Flores en route texted an expert: Dawn Keller, founder and director of Barrington-based Flint Creek Wildlife Rehabilitation.
"I've called her before and had her number in my phone," he said.
Flores also sent Keller a photo of the entangled deer from the scene so she knew how to prepare.
"Once I saw the picture, my first thought was, 'This is going to be a dangerous rescue,'" Keller said.
She packed up a veterinary anesthetic, needles, medicine, a 5-foot pole syringe and "a big, portable foam cot" to use as makeshift protection.
"We were concerned if she got close enough, he could have gored her with his antlers," Flores said.
Flint Creek treats more than 3,000 animals a year, but few involve deer rescues. Keller said the last potentially dangerous one was several years ago in Elgin after a doe fell into the foundation of a home under construction.
In Barrington, the deer was frantic and running in a circle, at times leaving its feet and swinging by its antler, Keller said.
"I wasn't scared. I was cautious," she said. "I knew how to approach him. I knew there was risk, but I was extremely careful."
She administered a dose of anesthetic to get the animal sedated enough so she could safely approach and waited. Nothing happened.
"His adrenaline was so pumped that it took us three rounds of anesthetic to get him groggy," Keller posted on Facebook.
More than two hours after getting the call from police, Keller was able to get close enough to remove the rope.
A little shaken but unencumbered, the buck walked into the woods and lay down. Keller administered medicine to reverse the anesthetic. More than 2½ hours had passed from the time Keller was called.
During the buck's struggle, the short, bristly hairs known as velvet on his antlers were getting ripped away. But that is not a life-threatening injury. Keller worried about the effect of extreme stress on the animal.
"He was in shock," she said. "Deer are prone to something called capture myopathy. It will kill them."
Keller said the buck looked "great" the last she saw of him.
"He stood up and basically trotted away. I feel hopeful."
Lake County sheriff's Lt. Chris Covelli said animal calls are frequent.
"From cows that got loose, sheep that get loose, wildlife getting into homes, to just about anything you can imagine, our deputies see it nearly every day," he said.
Keller said people don't understand the hazards they create for wildlife in their yards.
"I've rescued four horned owls from soccer nets" in recent weeks, she said.
Keller founded and opened Flint Creek in 2003. While state and federally licensed to treat and raise orphaned wildlife, the nonprofit group receives no subsidies and relies on donations.
Flores said Sunday's rescue cost the organization hundreds of dollars for sedation alone. Equipment to deliver anesthetic from a safer distance would have made the rescue easier and safer, he said.
Keller said 20-hour days are common and that she hasn't had a day off in more than 17 years. Immediately after the buck rescue, for example, it was off to northern Lake County for a swan rescue.
"I don't sleep in my car, but I don't sleep a lot," she said.