Wildlife

Hunter Shoots Deer Near Wildlife Rescue Center: ‘It Was Horrible’

HAMPTON BAYS, NY – Gunshots rang outside the Evelyn Alexander Wildlife Rescue Center in Hampton Bays Tuesday morning – and when she ran outside to investigate, the organization’s executive director, Virginia Frati, said she was horrified by what she found.

“I saw that a hunter had shot a deer which was lying, still alive, near our raccoon pens,” she said.

The two loud gunshots were heard at about 9:30 am, Frati said. She picked up the deer, her arms, face, pants and glasses covered with her blood, and tried in vain to save it, she said. But despite her best attempts, the deer died.

“It was the most horrible, traumatic thing I’ve ever experienced,” Frati said. “I was just sobbing.”

She believes the deer is one that was released after rehabilitation from the center, Frati said.

Frati was also working to try and stop the hunter who had been seen standing about 40 feet from the rescue center after he’d shot the deer.

“I said, ‘What are you doing? Do you know where you are? You’re at a wildlife hospital,'” she said.

He told her he had gotten lost and was sorry, she said.

Frati said she asked the man to follow her inside so that they could call the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation but by the time she was done trying to help the deer, the hunter was gone. He was eventually found near the parking area just south of Bellows Pond Road by the Southampton Town Police and the DEC, Frati said.

The DEC brought in dogs to sniff and find the shotgun shell casings, she said.

The problem is not new, Frati said. For about 20 years, she said she has been imploring Suffolk County officials to terminate an agreement that allows hunters to traverse a strip of county-owned land to reach the New York State-sanctioned Henry’s Hollow hunting area adjacent to that parcel.

Over the years, Frati said she has found arrows on the wildlife rescue’s property and once, she found a hunter carrying a gun outside. Concerns are also centered on the fact that Munns County Park features a nature trail, filled with hikers and others, who might be in danger due to the close proximity of hunters, she said.

When the shots were fired Tuesday, one slug went through a cage and came close to workers at the wildlife rescue, missing by just a few feet, she added.

“There should not be a hunting area near a wildlife center,” Frati said. “That’s like putting a porn shop or an adult book store next to a children’s playground.”

Frati reached out with an email to Suffolk County Commissioner of Parks Jason Smagin.

“This has happened countless times during our time here,” Frati wrote. “Our education birds of prey have been startedled and even injured themselves from the sound of nearby gunshots. I have written letters again and again, both to NYSDEC and to your office, but received a letter back from your predecessor that hunting is a traditional pastime , used to control the expanding deer population and our birds should be brought indoors.It is not in our mission to raise any arguments about deer, but I do have to say that my co-worker and I walk these nature trails every day at lunchtime – and this is a disaster waiting to happen. “

Smagin did not immediately return a request for comment by Patch; a media representative for Suffolk County Parks directed all questions to the DEC. The DEC said it was still gathering information.

Suffolk County Legis. Bridget Fleming said she had been in touch with the parks department, “which is taking the matter very seriously.” Due to the fact that there is an investigation underway, Fleming said she was unable to comment further.

John Di Leonardo, founder and executive director of Long Island Orchestrating for Nature, said his organization would be joining the campaign to void the agreement allowing hunters use of county land to access the land-locked state parcel – and to help prevent hunting so close to the facility.

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