VIA| Tyler Balak was surfing a few hundred feet off the shore in Cape Hatteras, North Carolina, when he noticed something strange in the water.
The Virginian-Pilot reports that beachgoers feared it was a shark; others thought it was driftwood. As Balak paddled closer and closer, he noticed it had a head with ears. His initial thought was that it was a dog.
It was only when he got within a few feet that he realized:
“Oh my God, it’s a deer!”
The baby deer was struggling to keep its head above water. Balak quickly took the fawn in his arms where it “went limp”, and swam back to shore, wrapping the tiny deer in a towel.
— The Virginian-Pilot (@PilotNews) August 3, 2015
The 33-year-old surfer and adjunct university professor thinks the deer was out there for as long as 30 minutes, as he tells the Pilot:
“It was shaking. It was clearly in shock… It was definitely going to drown.”
Balak contacted Hatteras Island Wildlife Rehabilitation, an animal rescue shelter a few miles away where they took the deer in. Hours after the deer arrived and passed a thorough physical examination, caregivers at the shelter thought it was healthy enough to be released back into the wild.
— Mary Beth Gahan (@VPMaryBeth) August 3, 2015
No one is certain how the deer ended up in the ocean. According to the Pilot, Balak believes either the deer was pulled into the water after becoming “scared” and running into the waves; or, it may have been swept off of rocks as it was trying to lick salt off of them.
However the tiny fawn ended up in the water, thankfully Balak was there to save the day.