A Moorhead man was charged Tuesday with animal cruelty for allegedly circling his pontoon boat around a deer struggling in a Mahnomen County lake until the large buck drowned.

Steven W. Timm, 55, was charged in Mahnomen County District Court with two misdemeanors stemming from the Labor Day weekend incident on Tulaby Lake: animal cruelty and chasing a wild animal in a motor vehicle for the purpose of hunting. Timm was charged by summons, and a hearing was scheduled for Oct. 29.

Telephone calls Tuesday to Timm went unanswered. The Minnesota Department of Natural Resources (DNR), which investigated the case, said Timm told a conservation officer that he was merely trying to turn the deer back and that he intended no harm.

According to a report released by the DNR, Timm explained to witness and lakeside property owner David Kvidt that he was trying to see what was in the water and said, “What do you think I am, a deer killer?”

In an interview Tuesday with the Star Tribune, Kvidt said he saw from shore “the deer was swimming faster than heck” as Timm’s pontoon boat was “accelerating and creating a big wake” while drawing ever closer to the animal.

Kvidt, who was snapping photos of the incident, said he sprinted to his pontoon and fired up the engine. “It probably took 20 seconds to get to him,” he said, “but by then, the deer had turned upside down.”

Kvidt said the deer had been “heading straight for the public landing” until Timm pursued it.

Timm “just got all excited,” Kvidt said. “You can see him in two or three of my pictures holding up a camera trying to take pictures or video.”

According to the criminal complaint:

Late in the morning on Sept. 6, Kvidt told a conservation officer that he saw a pontoon boat interacting with a deer in the water. Kvidt said he saw the deer swimming in the lake earlier in the morning about 200 feet from shore.

He then saw Timm navigate a pontoon boat toward the deer, sending the animal farther from shore. Timm then “circled about the deer, which prevented the deer from heading toward the public landing,” the complaint read.

The deer responded by swimming faster and was floating belly-up at one point, said Kvidt, who photographed the unfolding scene.

The officer inspected the dead deer after another boater had pulled it onto the public access. The animal had no visible injuries. She seized the animal and disposed of it.

Timm was located by the officer. He told her that he noticed something in the water while fishing and drove his pontoon closer to get a better look. At that point, Timm said, the deer swam farther out in the lake.

He contended that he “drove the pontoon between the deer and shore while trying to get around the front of the deer to turn it back to shore.”