Mussel farmer surprised to find deer taking winter dip in Marlborough Sounds
Deer are known for being fleet of foot, but one plucky creature has shown they also take to swimming like a duck to water.
Clearwater Mussels owner John Young spotted what he thought was a log floating through one of his mussel farms, off the west coast of Maud Island, during a routine inspection trip last week.
But as the boat moved closer, Young realised it wasn't a log at all.
"I had another guy with me, Brian Godsiff, and he said, 'bugger me, it's a deer, I've only ever seen that once in my life before'."
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Young said the deer was abut 250 metres from the shore, in water 40m deep. It was swimming through the buoys of the mussel farm, pushing itself up and over the lines that lay just under the water.
The pair stopped to watch the "idyllic" scene for a good 10 minutes. Young said it was an amazing sight, and that neither of the two men, both keen hunters, had any intention of harming the animal.
"As I get older it's very much live and let live. We're realists, of course. We live in the Sounds and we have to shoot deer and other pests like possums because there's too many," he said.
"But I certainly didn't feel like ruining that deer's day, it was having a beautiful time and so were we."
Young said he had heard of deer crossing channels "to get to another piece of land", however he speculated this particular deer had hopped in the water because it was a nice day.
"Perhaps this one was just drinking down near the water's edge and thought, 'hell, it's a beautiful day, I might go in for a swim' - who knows what goes through a deer's head," he said.
The mussel farmer shared one of the photographs of the swimming deer with Aquaculture New Zealand, which posted it to its Facebook page.
The post attracted hundreds of likes and comments, such as, "[a] new take on Surf n turf" and "just shooting out to the mussel farms for a hunt".
Young said he was amazed by the response, which he put down to the fact most people did not realise how well deer could swim.
Although it was the first time he had seen it himself, Young said a fisherman once told him about coming across two deer swimming together about a kilometre offshore.
"They're such amazing, agile animals. It was just an idyllic thing, watching it swim through the mussel farm. I thought it was just marvellous," he said.
- The Marlborough Express