Featured Story

Small deer rescued from Wading River well

Rescuing wildlife over the past handful of years, Joe Rocco has seen a lot. “I rescued a butterfly from a 90-year-old lady,” he recalled, chuckling at the thought. “It goes from butterfly to 250-pound bucks, like it doesn’t matter. We’ve done ospreys, foxes, you name it.”

Mr. Rocco runs The Broken Antler, a Calverton-based nonprofit wildlife search and rescue organization, with his wife, Jackie. “We’ve done hundreds of deer calls, but every single one is different, so you never know what you’re walking into,” he said.

On Sunday, he walked into a situation in Wading River that resulted in a happy ending.

A small, young deer, estimated to be about eight months old and weigh some 30 pounds, had fallen into an old wishing well with no cover and a 10- or-12-foot drop. A homeowner raking leaves heard a commotion, saw the deer and called the Riverhead police, who in turn called Mr. Rocco.

“We just saw the deer was OK, just going around in circles,” Mr. Rocco said. “There was no broken legs, which with a deer call, there’s usually not a happy ending when it comes to a deer call. They get hit by a car or whatever, stuck in fences, and just to be able to see that that deer was perfect, it was an amazing feeling.”

A video of the rescue shows Mr. Rocco climbing down a ladder into the well, where he covered the deer’s head with a hood and administered a tranquilizer.

“You don’t want to stress the deer out because deer are high-stress animals, and if they’re frightened in any way, they could actually will themselves to die,” Mr. Rocco said. “With any deer, whether it’s small or the biggest buck you’ve ever seen, as soon as the eyes are covered, it reduces the stress and it helps the tranquilizer do what it’s supposed to do, which is let the deer calm down and basically put it to sleep for the time being.”

Mr. Rocco carried the deer up the ladder before laying the animal on the ground and removing the hood. Moments later, the uninjured deer rose and was on its way.

It was a speedy, smooth operation. From the time Mr. Rocco began climbing down the ladder to when the deer stood up and took off, only 1 minute and 41 seconds had elapsed.

Said Mr. Rocco, “Happy endings, they’re few and far between.”