It was an "Oh, deer" moment Wednesday when real estate agents spotted a seven-point buck and a doe that fell into a deep foundation at an unfinished development in East Islip.
"We gotta save Christmas -- we have to get Vixen and Rudolph to Santa's sleigh," Matthew Arnold said he joked at Meadow Farm Estates, a 5-acre residential subdivision.
The deer couldn't escape because the hole was at least 10 feet below ground, with rebars jutting up, said Chief Roy Gross of the Suffolk County Society for Prevention of Cruelty to Animals. "If the deer had hit the rebar, it would have impaled them," he said.
The animals were rescued within two hours when Islip Town workers created a dirt ramp that became their highway to freedom.
The drama started when Arnold, an associate broker at Netter Real Estate, called Islip about 2:30 p.m. He was on the property to oversee listing photos after the owner bought the 5-acre foreclosure this year.
All the people peering down on them -- from Islip Town animal shelter and Department of Public Works staff to state environmental officials -- got the deer nervously pacing to the far corner of the foundation, on the other side of the steel girder across the 60- by 20-foot foundation, Gross said. The buck tried jumping out, Gross said, making the humans concerned for the animals because of all the rebar.
"He almost made it to the top," Gross said.
One option was to tranquilize the deer and carry them out -- not the safest bet due to possible side effects, Gross said.
So a town payloader dug soil from the property and dumped five buckets full into a corner of the foundation.
The humans then stood back for the deers' next move.
"They saw a way out, and they took it," Gross said. Twenty feet from their one-time prison, the doe and buck began gobbling up vegetation, the SPCA chief said.
"As nervous as they were, as soon as they got a little bit away, they started eating."
In fact, the deer liked the grass around there so much that they started moving back near the foundation, Gross said.
Gross said there was no fence or warning of the foundation hole, somewhat hidden by overgrown grass.
Town spokeswoman Inez Birbiglia said, "It was quick thinking on the part of the animal shelter and DPW that saved them."
By law, temporary fencing at least 4 feet high must be placed around open foundations during construction, Birbiglia said. She said the building department will address issues with the owner.