Fawn dragged from sea after Lynmouth cliff plunge
Two fishermen went out to liberate their lobster pots – but ended up with surf 'n turf after hauling a floundering young deer out of the sea.
With only its snout out of the water, the deer was close to drowning.
"We saw something bobbing in the water about 200 yards off shore and went to have a look," explained Neil Davey, 54. "It was a deer swimming like a dog and it was pretty exhausted.
"It didn't flinch when I touched it so I just leant out of the boat and pulled it aboard. It didn't resist."
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Although it only had minor facial injuries, Neil and fellow fisherman Mick Shute believe it must have plunged from cliffs at Foreland Point, North Devon.
In choppy waters, the pair decided against taking the deer to shore straight away. And while they continued fishing for an hour and a half, the deer lay in the back of the boat, casting an occasional wary eye at the lobsters that shared the deck of the 19ft boat, named 'Eyecatcher'.
"It stayed quiet even when it was surrounded by lobster pots. It wasn't worried about anything," said Neil.
When they returned to nearby Lynmouth harbour the deer didn't struggle when it was carried to a pick-up – and Neil drove to National Trust woodland close to the cliffs.
"As soon as we got to the edge of the woods the deer stood up for the first time," he said. "We lifted it out of the truck and it ran away as if nothing had happened. It was wonderful to see."
Despite 14 years fishing, it's the first such encounter the men have had. Local National Trust ranger Julian Gurney said: "This looks like a late-born red deer calf that has got too close to the edge."
High tides and racing currents in the Bristol Channel mean the deer would not have survived for long.