In an incident caught on video, an Alberta Fish and Wildlife officer is seen separating a pair of male deer with locked antlers using his firearm.

Early on Oct. 10, Greg Gilbertson said he was driving a side road north of Whitecourt when he came across the animals.

“On the edge of a farmer’s field [I saw] two whitetail deer that had their antlers locked up,” Gilbertson said. “One of them I thought was dead, the other one was alive.”

Gilbertson called Fish and Wildlife, and an officer came out to the scene. When the officer arrived at the scene, Gilbertson said he came up with a game plan: to shoot the antler of one of the animals.

“That way, that one could run away, and…we would see what would happen to [the other one],” Gilbertson said.

“Unfortunately the other deer did not recover; it either had a broken neck or was in some other way injured and it had to be dispatched.”

In a Facebook post, Alberta Fish and Wildlife Enforcement said in some cases officers can cut the antlers of entangled animals with a saw, but they have to get very close to the “agitated animals” to do it.

“The only way this can be done safely is usually if the animals are too tired to react aggressively towards the officer,” the Facebook post said.

In this case, while one of the animals was seriously injured and no longer fighting, they were still stuck and the other deer was fighting hard to free itself, making it challenging for the officer to get close enough to cut it free.

Plus, the temperature was cold that day, and tranquilizing the deer would put it at risk of hypothermia.

“Ultimately the officer determined that the location provided a safe and open area to discharge a firearm,” the post continued.

“Once freed, the deer ran off towards the tree line and will live to fight another day.”

Gilbertson, a retired 34-year veteran of Alberta Fish and Wildlife, has trail cameras set up in the area, and said in recent weeks he’s seen the freed deer and it appears to be doing well.

“Quite often when animals are in distress and Fish and Wildlife gets contacted and they respond as quickly as they can and make a decision on what they can and cannot do,” Gilbertson continued. “If he had decided to use drugs to tranquilize the deer it’s quite possible it may have died.

“His choice of shooting the antler off the deer I think is certainly correct, and it’s obviously resulted in one of the deer surviving.”

Gilbertson credited the officer’s skill with the shotgun for saving the deer.

“I had no doubt that he would be able to shoot the antler off myself,” Gilbertson said.

“Excellent shot.”

With files from Bill Fortier