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Hochul vetoes hunting ban near LI wildlife rescue center

HAMPTON BAYS, NY – East End animal advocates are appalled after Governor Kathy Hochul vetoed a bill that would have banned hunting near the Evelyn Alexander Wildlife Rescue Center in Hampton Bays – where a deer was shot in January.

Months after the deer was shot just yards from the Evelyn Alexander Wildlife Rescue Center in Hampton Bays, lawmakers – responding to serious concerns that staff or visitors to the facility could be harmed – signed the a bill in June that would ban hunting on this parcel in the future.

But that bill was vetoed once it reached Hochul’s desk, according to the New York State Senate website.

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John Di Leonardo, anthropozoologist and president of Humane Long Island, was outraged: “Wildlife rehabilitators shouldn’t have to work in fear of being shot and killed at the only wildlife hospital in the Hamptons, where many many patients are treated for gunshot wounds to begin with,” he said. “With Governor Hochul signing both the Puppy Mill Pipeline Bill and the Cruelty-Free Cosmetics Act this week, we know she cares about animals – however, this bill is not about not animal welfare. It’s about public safety. We’re confident that once her office better understands the danger our rehabilitation workers on Long Island face, she’ll sign it off when it comes back to near-virtual – unanimity.”

Alexander Wildlife Center executive director Virginia Frati said she was “disappointed and discouraged” by the news.

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“I just can’t believe nobody cared about employee safety,” she said. “We had so many close calls, with hunters not where they were supposed to be; we found arrows.”

Frati said he saw “No Hunting” signs with bullet holes. “The way this property is laid out makes it unique – the hunting trail ends right in front of our building. It’s not just a woods.”

Frati said she hoped New York State Assemblyman Fred Thiele would reintroduce the bill, but added that it would take time to pass. She added that she was surprised, with Hochul’s emphasis on gun safety and animal welfare, that she would not sign the legislation.

The measure received bipartisan support and only needed to be signed by Hochul.

Frati said she had seen hunters on the property and next to the rescue center for years.

And, she noted, “We were here first. It’s important, because I would never have chosen a place close to the hunt.”

Frati said she and her staff still mourn the deer who died despite her desperate efforts to save him; they erected a lighted memorial, which includes a deer statue, at the very spot where the deer was shot.

“I think about it all the time, absolutely,” Frati said. “At least if it passes, the deer didn’t die in vain.”

On January 4, shots were fired by a hunter at the Henrys Hollow Pine Barrens State Forest Property of the New York State Department of Conservation; the hunter was later charged, the DEC said.

When the shots were fired, a slug ran through a cage and approached wildlife rescue workers, missing by a few yards, Frati said – leaving facility staff fearing for their own safety and for those walking and biking on the nearby trail.

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

According to Thiele, the bill, which he sponsored in the New York State Assembly and was sponsored by New York State Senator Anthony Palumbo in the Senate, only applies to to a 200-acre statewide parcel – the state-owned land in Henry’s Hollow next to the Evelyn Alexander Wildlife Rehabilitation Center, part of Munn’s Pond County Park.

The Center leased the property for more than 20 years, before any hunting was permitted, Thiele said.

“The Center has raised security concerns for many years with buffer violations,” Thiele said; he added that although a larger stamp from the DEC, all that had been agreed was additional signage, which led to the legislation.

The situation, Thiele said, is “unique. There are only three parking spaces. Hunters have to drive through Center property to get to state property – hence all the conflict.”

And, Thiele added that the legislation is “not an anti-hunting bill. I’ve passed bills that increase opportunities for hunting in the East End. It’s a safety issue.”

Palumbo expressed similar sentiments: “It was a very specific situation and the legislation only applies to this specific plot regarding a safety issue at the wildlife center,” he said. “As a senator, I continue to support our hunters and all avenues to reduce the deer population in the East End. This bill was limited in scope and passed with broad bipartisan support.”

Over the past few months, Suffolk County Legislator Bridget Fleming has thanked Thiele, Palumbo and everyone who helped create change.

“Legislation has been passed to protect the wildlife center and ensure that hunting will not endanger the safety of workers or animals at the center,” she said.

According to NYSDEC, Environmental Protection Officers Jacob Clark and Rob McCabe received a complaint from workers at the Hampton Bays Wildlife Rescue Center about a hunter who shot a deer on their property. Officers responded and found a deer near the animal holding area behind the center, the DEC said.

ECOs interviewed the hunter, who said he entered from a legal hunting co-op parking spot and mistakenly entered an area where hunting is prohibited, the DEC said.

DEC environmental officers also found bullet holes in the fence and door damage to 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, rent it, or have permission from the owner, according to the DEC website.

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

“I saw that a hunter had shot a deer that was lying, still alive, near our raccoon enclosures,” she said. She picked up the deer, its arms, face, pants and glasses covered in its blood, and tried unsuccessfully to save it, she said. But despite his best attempts, the deer died.

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

Although the hunter was about 40 feet away, “the deer fell to the ground literally three feet from one of our cages,” Frati said. “There shouldn’t be a hunting area near an animal center. It’s like putting a pornography store or an adult bookstore next to a children’s playground.”

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