Buffalo, NY (WKBW) December in Western New York means snow. It also means plenty of ice. Ponds and lakes freeze over, and many venture out onto the ice for one reason or another.
But wintertime can also be treacherous if you don't take enough care and be cautious, because you can easily find yourself on thin ice, literally.
When the temperature drops, danger can loom over frigid waters, especially when people venture onto newly frozen ice.
Captain Kevin Caffery of the Erie County Sheriff's Department flies the County's rescue helicopter, and has performed many ice water rescues.
"No ice is safe ice. It could be two feet thick in one spot and another you could fall right through," Caffery said.
It was an icy prison for a deer Thursday afternoon, stranded on the frozen waters of the Buffalo River.
Don Poleto helped rescue the deer. "We couldn't just leave it there. To see an animal struggle like that is something we couldn't do. To leave it to freeze or drown," he said.
After a water rescue was deemed too dangerous, the deer had to be lassoed and pulled to safety. It was taken to a nearby wildlife rehabilitation center, where it later died.
Still, ice can be a place of recreation for others. Despite only being a few inches thick, ice fisherman Nick Watroba set his hooks into the ice out on Lake Erie Thursday morning.
"The ice is good. We've got about 4 or 5 inches so plenty to sit on for now," Watroba said.
But authorities warn that not being careful can be a tragic mistake.
Captain Caffery insisted that ice is a serious matter. "The majority of people we rescue are out there when the conditions are poor and they get trapped out on the ice when it opens up. Chances are slim that they're going to survive," he said.