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Deer on chunk of ice in river in Claremont draws lots of attention

  • A deer stands on a diminishing patch of ice in the Sugar River in downtown Claremont, N.H., Monday, Feb. 10, 2020. New Hampshire Fish and Game officials and Claremont Police encouraged onlookers to leave the area hoping the deer would find its way across the shallows to an area where it could safely leave the riverbank. (Valley News - James M. Patterson) Copyright Valley News. May not be reprinted or used online without permission. Send requests to

  • Crystal Covington, of Claremont, watches a deer that spent Monday, Feb. 10, 2020, on a diminishing patch of ice on the Sugar River in downtown Claremont, N.H. Covington called New Hampshire Fish and Game hoping they would rescue the deer, but the agency requested that bystanders leave the are and allow the animal to rest and try to find its own way off the ice. "When I was a kid I came across a deer in a swamp. It had a broken leg," said Covington. "I called Fish and Game - I guess they came out back then - but they had to put it down." (Valley News - James M. Patterson) Copyright Valley News. May not be reprinted or used online without permission. Send requests to

Valley News Staff Writer
Published: 2/10/2020 6:50:50 PM
Modified: 2/10/2020 10:08:35 PM

CLAREMONT — Doni Fontaine wouldn’t leave the ice-covered banks of the Sugar River on Monday afternoon.

For hours, the Claremont woman and groups of other residents pressed themselves against a fence at the edge of the water and walked anxious paces in the snow.

All eyes were trained on one thing: a deer stuck on the ice.

“She’s been looking at me and other people,” Fontaine said, adding that she’d been at the bank for two hours with no plans of leaving. “I feel I can’t just walk away.”

The deer sat on a chunk of ice on the south bank throughout the day just below the large brick buildings on Water Street. According to Fontaine, people had come to see the animal throughout the day hoping for a rescue, but no attempts had been made by 4 p.m.

Col. Kevin Jordan of the New Hampshire Fish and Game Department said there was a good reason for that: any rescue attempts the department could make with a net or a boat might spook the deer, he said. Even using a tranquilizer gun might risk startling the animal.

“She’ll jump in the water, and we’ll lose her,” he said.

So instead the department is keeping an eye on the situation, even sending an officer down Monday afternoon. They’ve decided to wait the situation out, hoping that with the cover of night and fewer people around, the deer will feel safe enough to swim out on her own.

As for how the animal got to the river, Jordan said she likely was pursued to the ice — probably by coyotes — in the night.

“Because she got out there, she can get back … but right now she’s panicked,” he said.

But as the hours ticked by and temperatures grew warmer Monday, many of the onlookers grew worried.

Crystal Covington, of Claremont, said she got a text from her daughter around 10 a.m. with a photo showing the deer standing on the ice patch, which was considerably larger in the morning.

“She was standing then. We could have had a chance,” said Covington, a self-proclaimed animal lover and proud owner of three cats. “Put a net down. Try some ropes. At least try something.”

Stephen Morse, of Unity, was on the same page. He arrived at the river Monday afternoon with a brand new package of yellow rope and some gloves.

“I’m willing to lend a helping hand any way I can,” he said as he stared over the water. “But it doesn’t look like I can do anything.”

Even away from the water, the news of the trapped doe captured plenty of concerned attention.

An early afternoon post on the Facebook group “What’s up, Claremont?” with a picture of the deer garnered hundreds of comments. Covington said people have even been calling local media, the police and the fire department throughout the day. Jordan said his office has been fielding calls all afternoon.

For Fontaine, the outpouring of support is a heartening takeaway.

“There are people that are good. People that are willing to try,” she said, gesturing to Morse. “It’s good to see humanity.”

Jordan said officers will be back at the river Tuesday morning to check on the deer.

Anna Merriman can be reached at or 603-727-3216.

Valley News

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