"Otter? ...dog?" -my visitor had seen something odd swimming past the window, and was trying to make sense of it.
"Ah, muntjac," I said, and grabbed the camera. We watched intently; the deer swam to the bank opposite, which was steep and concreted, and tried to get out. He finally succeeded, but was obviously unsteady on his feet, and a hind leg was dragging. He settled under a hazel tree. Presently, he limped along the bank into the undergrowth.
Deer -and other animals, and indeed people -often get into difficulties in the canal; the bottom is muddy and treacherous, and the banks steep and surprisingly difficult to climb out onto, as I have found to my cost on the three occasions I've fallen in. A friend who fell in last January, at night, was stuck in the water for several hours before being rescued, and suffered badly in consequence. At least the deer was saved from drowning, but there was still cause for concern.
We kept an eye on him, and Chris and Jinny, my boating neighbours, called Penny, a friend who is very good and knowledgeable about rescuing wildlife in difficulties. But there wasn't much you could do; the deer was mobile enough to melt into the dense undergrowth if approached. If you didn't know he was there, you'd never guess from this photo, would you?
The next day he fell in again, perhaps while trying to drink. When he returned to the hazel tree, we saw that his back leg was evidently badly broken.
The local wildlife trust sent a marksman, who shot him with a .22 rifle. We rowed across and picked up the body. In death, he seemed tiny. He had abscesses on both back legs and had evidently been very badly injured; rutting? hit by a car? Who knows.