It was a shot in the dark, but an Illinois police officer manage to separate two whitetail deer whose antlers were tangled together -- by shooting them apart.
The bucks got stuck last week in Illinois after a bitter duel, and a conservation police officer, state trooper, and forest preserve officer were all called out to try free them, according to the New York Daily News.
The officers feared the animals would both die from starvation unless they were split up. Still, they knew better than to attempt the separation by hand. Instead, one of the officers attempted to shoot the animals apart without harming either animal, DigTriad.com reported.
"He's worn out, he's going to give you a shot," one of the officers can be heard saying on a YouTube clip released by the Illinois Department of Natural Resources.
One of the officers was able to shoot the bucks' racks apart, but one deer did have to be euthanized after being freed, while the other one survived, according to OutdoorLife.com.
A spokesman for the Illinois Department of Natural Resources said that officials believe both animals survived and that the one that limped off in the video did not do so because of the officer’s actions.
"It had been engaged in a fight with the other deer and probably sustained a minor injury from the altercation with the other deer," the spokesman told The Huffington Post by email.
At first, it seemed like the shooting was coming under fire from some animal activists, including a man named Mark Dorencz, who told the agency on their Facebook page that the officer "should have comforted the deer prior to shooting at them." However, the IDNR spokesman said that Dorencz later claimed that his comments were meant as a joke and he was not part of an animal rights group.
But a department spokesman told the Daily Mail that the shooting was necessary to ensure the survival of at least one of the bucks.
"Fights among male deer are common and occasionally their antlers become entangled," the spokesperson told the paper.
"Sometimes the deer are able to free themselves…sometimes not, and in those instances we have found deer which become locked together and perish before someone comes along to find and possibly free them."
CORRECTION: An earlier version of this story featured a video of a different deer incident. The correct video is now in the story.
UPDATE: A spokesman for the Illinois Department of Natural Resources contacted The Huffington Post to say that officials believe both animals survived and that the one that limped off in the video did not do so because of the officer’s actions. It had been engaged in a fight with the other deer and probably sustained a minor injury from the altercation with the other deer. In addition, the spokesman said that Mark Dorencz, who claimed to be a member of PETA later commented on the Facebook thread that his comments were meant as a joke and he was not part of an animal rights group.