Where did the Jersey Shore deer go? Don’t worry — they like to swim!
TOMS RIVER — It's not clear where a deer that spent much of Wednesday in the ocean went afterward.
Police spokesman Ralph Stocco said rescuers spent much of the day trying to coax the deer onto the sand of Ortley Beach and stay there. Live video by News 12 showed the deer wandering onto the beach only to go back into the ocean as the tide came in.
"Once the crowd dispersed, he kind of just settled in and settled down," John Bergmann, of the Popcorn Park Zoo, told New Jersey 101.5. Bergmann was on standby in case the deer was removed from the beach and needed to be taken someplace.
Toms River Animal Control Officer Rich Barbosa said he walked and searched for the deer fom the Seaside border to Lavalette and saw no sign of the deer.
"Spoke to a few fisherman and a few people who were out there. No one has seen any sign of it as far as today goes. We're hoping it made its way back to the bayside and swam back from where it came from," Barbosa said. "We're really hoping it found its way to a safer area."
Barbosa said tracks left by the deer could easily be covered already and droppings scattered by birds.
The state Division of Fish and Wildlife said they were investigating reports the deer wandered north overnight, according to spokesman Larry Hajna.
While a rare spectacle that drew crowds to the beach on Wednesday, Hajna said deer are very good swimmers.
"A few months ago, for example, a deer swam from Staten Island to Hudson County and other deer have been seen swimming in the ocean in New Jersey over the years. There are many reports of deer swimming in the ocean, bays and rivers in less populated areas of the east coast, such as Maine."
Bergmann said it would have been difficult to rescue the deer and was concerned the deer could have gone deeper into the ocean if anyone approached him.
"It’s really important for the public to let any deer in this kind of situation to just exhibit its natural behavior and to not stress it out by gathering to watch it," Hajna said.
State Police Marine Unit, Seaside Heights Police Department, and Toms River Animal Control were on site Wednesday with the deer.
Contact reporter Dan Alexander at Dan.Alexander@townsquaremedia.com.