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'Sad news': Despite rescuers' efforts, buck pulled from Gifford Pinchot lake dies

John A. Pavoncello
York Dispatch

John Stoll Jr. hoped he could save one of the deer that fell through the lake ice at Gifford Pinchot State Park on Saturday morning, prompting an hourslong rescue involving state and county wildlife officers.

The Wellsville resident helped during the four-hour operation, and he and his family then volunteered to take an exhausted young spike buck home to nurse it back to health.

Unfortunately for the rescuers, the effort was in vain.

"We have some sad news, our main little boy, he did not make it," Stoll said during a Facebook Live video Sunday. " We did the best we could do."

Stoll was on hand Saturday morning as Gifford Pinchot State Park officials and state Game Commission officers attempted to rescue four deer that fell through ice covering the lake. 

He spent hours assisting the rescue, helping hold lifelines for the rescue personnel, and physically pulled one exhausted buck the last few feet out of the water.

John Stoll Jr. of Wellsville watches a whitetail deer swim to shore after it, along with several others, fell through the ice at Gifford Pinchot State Park, Saturday, January 11, 2019.
John A. Pavoncello photo

The incident started when a couple hiking along Lakeside Trail with their dog heard three deer struggling to escape after falling through the ice on the lake. A fourth was able to scurry off the ice to safety. 

About four hours later, Stoll was there as the last deer, a young spike buck, was brought to shore by ice rescue personnel.

The exhausted buck had a slim chance at survival after struggling to free itself from the icy waters, so Stoll volunteered to take the buck home and try to save it.

Stoll posted a video on Facebook on Saturday evening showing the buck lying covered in blankets as the family attempted to warm the deer. Replying to a Facebook message, Stoll said the deer was drinking water and seemed to be improving.

Unfortunately for rescuers, the struggle ended up taking its toll on the deer. Despite efforts by the Stoll family and others, the buck died early Sunday morning.