A large number of deer are dying while trying to cross a New Brunswick river covered in thin ice.

The deer are attempting to get to a deer yard where they spend most of their winter, but many aren’t surviving the Northwest Miramichi River crossing.

Three deer were put down Thursday morning, though one was saved and taken to shore.

The thin ice means the deer are either falling through the ice, or slipping and splaying their legs.

“When they splice, their legs go to the sides and do a lot of internal damage, and they can no longer walk after that. There’s nothing we can do for them, even if we get them ashore, there’s so much damage done that there’s nothing we can do, we have to dispose of them,” New Brunswick Department of Energy and Resource Development biologist Eric Sullivan told CTV Atlantic.

While most residents say it’s a sad fact of nature, it’s not a sight they like to live with.

“Poor things, they’re trying to get back up again and they’re alive, but some of them are frozen right into the ice and there’s not much you can do,” said local resident Bill Mullin.

Sullivan said his department received 15 to 20 calls about the deer in just two days.

Some locals have taken matters into their own hands, shooting the animals from shore, despite it being illegal.

Residents are hoping for thicker ice soon, so the deer can make it across safely, but they know the same situation could arise in the spring.

With files from CTV Atlantic’s Cami Kepke