On Jan. 12, Fred Forseman of Bemidji, Minn., was sitting on his deck watching the Gulf when something caught his eye.

“I grabbed the binoculars and realized it was a deer out in the gulf,” Forseman emailed The Sun. “I ran back into the condo to get my camera and took the following picture,” which was taken from Blue Tide on 30A in Seacrest Beach.  

Brittany Patrick, one of wildlife health technicians at the Emerald Coast Wildlife Refuge, said the nonprofit rescue group fielded a report about the animal in distress after a call was routed from the Florida Fish and Wildlife and Walton County Sheriff’s Office.

Patrick said the animal appeared injured and might have been clipped by a car. Volunteers were poised to respond, but witnesses lost sight of the deer after a few beachgoers tried to chase down the animal.

That effort to help may have actually harmed the animal, said Patrick. She said deer are susceptible to white muscle disease, a degenerative genetic ailment that leads to cardiac arrest in times of high stress. The chase may have forced the animal into the water where it perished.

While it’s not unheard of to spot deer on the beach in Walton County, where wooded areas often abut the coastline, Patrick said the organization always responds to animals that appear “orphaned” or “injured” — and any large mammal that is close to the beach is worth reporting.

“That was just a weird scenario,” she said. “Most wildlife that comes to the beach will turn around and come back.”

To report a wildlife incident call the ECWR at 850-650-1880. For after hours emergencies, call the FWC at 1-888-404-3922