NY: Hunter, 75, Charged After Shooting Deer Near Wildlife Refuge: DEC



The hunter who shot and killed a deer just feet from the Evelyn Alexander Wildlife Rescue Center in Hampton Bays has been arrested and charged, the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation said.

According to the NYSDEC, on Jan. 13, DEC environmental conservation officers, working with the Suffolk County District Attorney’s Office, arrested Isidoro Scarola, 75, of Islip Terrace.

He was charged with fourth-degree criminal mischief, a misdemeanor, and engaging in posted activity in a restricted, “no hunting area,” discharging a shotgun within 500 feet of a farm structure, and illegal take of protected wildlife, all violations, the NYSDEC said.

The charges were brought after the incident on Jan. 4, on the DEC’s Henrys Hollow Pine Barrens state forest property after Scarola voluntarily turned himself in to New York State Police at the Riverside barracks, the NYSDEC said.

He is scheduled to appear in Southampton Town Court on Feb. 2, the NYSDEC said.

When the shots were fired, one slug went through a cage and came close to workers at the wildlife rescue, missing by just a few feet, said Executive Director Virginia Frati — leaving staffers at the facility fearful for their own safety and for those walking and bicycling on the nearby trail.

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.

Of the charges, Frati said Wednesday: “While it is comforting that he got caught, the previous episodes which I’ve reported show that my staff and the public are not safe on this park and neither are the wildlife we spend so much time rehabilitating. And we were here first.”

Soon after the deer was shot, Suffolk County Legislator Bridget Fleming said she has called upon the NYSDEC “to suspend hunting in that location.”

The DEC did not immediately return a request for comment on the proposed ban.

As for Frati’s hope to end the agreement allowing hunters to cross the county parcel, Fleming said she looked forward to reviewing the results of investigations by the DEC and Southampton Town Police, “so that we can make sound decisions about whether the agreement between the Suffolk County Parks Department and the DEC should be reconsidered.”

New York State Assemblyman Fred Thiele said he was pleased to see that the matter was fully investigated and that the NYSDEC brought the “appropriate” charges. “Nevertheless, hunting should never have been allowed in this area, so close to the wildlife rehabilitation center. DEC and the county need to revisit their agreement. There needs to be a wider buffer and no hunting permitted where public safety cannot be guaranteed.”

According to the NYSDEC, environmental conservation officers Jacob Clark and Rob McCabe received a complaint from workers at the wildlife rescue center in Hampton Bays about a hunter who shot a deer on their property. The officers responded and found a deer near the animal holding area behind the center, the DEC said.

The ECOs questioned Scarola, who said he entered from a legal hunting co-op parking spot and had mistakenly walked into an area where hunting is prohibited, the DEC said.

The DEC environmental conservation officers also found bullet holes in the fence and damage to a door of an animal housing and storage shed, the DEC said.

Additionally ECO Christopher DeRose and K-9 Cramer also responded and found three spent shotgun shells within 500 feet of the occupied buildings, the DEC said.

It is illegal to discharge a firearm within 500 feet of a structure in use unless you own it, lease it, or have the owner’s permission, according to the DEC’s website.

Describing the gunshots that rang out outside the rescue center, Frati said she was horrified by what she found when she ran outside to investigate.

“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 a.m., Frati said. She picked up the deer, her arms, face, pants and glasses covered with its 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.”

While some have suggested a fence be erected around the wildlife rescue center, Frati said that would be costly and also, the property extends back about a half mile, as does the Munns County nature trail, so the fence would have to extend for some distance. The fear is that hikers and others on the trail might also be in danger due to the close proximity of hunters, Frati said.

Although the hunter had been about 40 feet away, “The deer dropped to the ground literally three feet from one of our cages,” Frati said. “There should not be a hunting area near a wildlife center. That’s like putting a porn shop or an adult book store next to a children’s playground.”

Meanwhile, at the wildlife rescue center, staffers are mourning the deer. Frati hopes to set up a memorial on the facility’s property, and another staffer hopes to get a tattoo in its memory.

“Everyone is heartbroken,” Frati said. “It’s terrible.”

The only solace lies in the prospect of change, Frati said: “Hopefully, the deer won’t have died in vain. Maybe they will realize they can’t have hunting so close to a wildlife hospital.”


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