A photo taken along the Wenatchee River in Washington revealed a herd of deer hopelessly trapped between a cliff of unstable snow and the frigid water.
Their predicament came to light when the state’s Department of Transportation shared a scenic snow photo Jan. 12 on Facebook.
Closer inspection revealed deer standing on a scrap of turf at the water’s edge and a single fallen tree holding back a wall of snow above them.
“The snow is too deep and unstable for them to climb the canyon walls,” the department wrote.
While the situation was highlighted as a cause of concern, the state did not mention a plan to intervene.
The deer were spotted as crews worked to reopen nearby US 2 Stevens Pass/Tumwater Canyon, which had been blocked by an avalanche that included trees and boulders. The highway reopened midday Thursday, Jan. 13.
DOT officials noted deer use the highway, too, which forces crews to occasionally “herd them up or down the canyon safely out of the way.”
“Drivers need to be really careful as the deer are going to be tired, hungry and stressed so please stay extra alert as they may not be able to move out of the road as quickly,” the DOT wrote.
Officials did not provide an update on the location of the deer as of noon PT on Jan. 13
The photo of the trapped deer had more than 5,000 reactions and comments as of Jan. 13, including from some who noted the deer might ultimately end up in the river. Others wondered if there was any way to safely drop food on the spot.
“They must be starving,” Ginny Gacek wrote on the WSDOT Facebook page.
“These deer look literally inches from being swept away. Scary!” Karen Bowman posted.
“When dealing with the drastic weather, we tend to think of our own hardships. Thank you for pointing out that these weather events affect wildlife, too,” Dixie Taylor posted.
The Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife noted the photo “is bringing attention to the plight of wildlife in many areas of the state right now.”
However, the department said, people should resist the urge to intervene, including offering food.
“Whether it’s deep snow loads or flooding, wildlife habitat is under a lot of precipitation,” the department wrote.
“Whether you encounter them in town or in the woods, keep your distance. ... Getting too close stresses animals and burns valuable fat stores needed to get through the winter.”