BYRD LAKE, Tenn. - Over the past several years, rangers at the Cumberland Mountain State Park have developed an unofficial mascot, a three-legged deer they lovingly referred to as 'Tripod.'
Ranger Monica Johnson suspects it was a car accident last year that injured her leg and killed one of her fawns.
"We watched [her leg] go through this process of falling off," said Johnson. "It swelled up huge. We thought that it would end up infected and she would die, but she fought through it."
But Monday bad luck struck again, and somehow Tripod ended up stranded and sinking between chunks of ice in the middle of frozen Byrd Lake in the Cumberland Mountain State Park.
Johnson grabbed a camera and conservation worker Nathan Potter grabbed a boat and a team of about six worked together to reach the doe.
"To see it out there just struggling for her life, again, it was just like we've got to do something," said Johnson.
Using a pick ax, Potter and a colleague pulled the boat over the ice, clearing a path for the animal to swim back to shore.
"She had already been through so much," said Potter. "She deserved more than to be out there in the lake like that."
As soon as she was able to touch solid ground, they say the deer succumbed to exhaustion. Rescuers hauled her out of the water and over to a ranger's nearby house where they let her rest in a vacant dog pen, covered in blankets and straw.
Three and a half hours later, they say she got up and walked away.
"She's more or less the park mascot," said Potter. "I'm sure we'll see her again."