Island fishermen spotted a somewhat unusual sight off Sankaty on Monday: a pair of antlers poking out of the water. Two bucks were swimming together in open water about a mile off the east end of Nantucket.
While it’s not something you see everyday, deer are known to be avid swimmers. The two bucks - one adult and one juvenile - swimming together so far offshore was a sight that prompted one of the fishermen to start recording.
“We were racing out to go fishing that day and we were five to 10 minutes from where we wanted to be, and one of the guys said ‘slow down’!” said the fisherman who shared the video with the Current but asked to remain anonymous. “Right away he recognized what it was. We circled back around and tried to guide them to shore.”
The crew on the fishing boat, who were participating in the 19th annual Nantucket Slam to benefit the Cystic Fibrosis Foundation, knew that deer have been spotted swimming around Nantucket before. But they were still taken aback by what they saw.
“I’ve never seen anything like that on the water,” the fisherman said. “It was a good mile out, and they were definitely struggling.”
With no real chance of bringing them up onto the boat, and not wanting to scare the two deer any further, the boat moved on to its fishing spot. It is unknown what became of the two bucks.
But the sighting harkens back to the origin story of how Nantucket got its deer.
As the Nantucket Historical Association tells it, on June 3, 1922 “some well-intentioned fishermen took it upon themselves to rescue an exhausted buck swimming in Nantucket Sound and bring him onto the island. A few years later, a summer resident named Breckinridge Long purchased two does from Michigan and freed them around Squam Swamp in order to keep the lonely buck company. A few more deer were brought on island to “improve the stock” and soon there was a large herd of fluffy tailed deer menacing the farmers’ crops and running around the island, predator-free. The first deer-hunting season was established in 1935 to reduce the population and responsible hunting has happened ever since, though the deer population is still high.”
So high, in fact, that the state estimates there are more than 2,000 deer alive on Nantucket, about 50 per square mile.