One of the four local men citied by the Department of Environmental Conservation for illegally taking and pursuing wildlife and posting the evidence online is speaking out after he says officers have exaggerated the circumstances behind the incidents.
Eighteen-year-old George Salzmann of Calverton said he and his friends were trying to help the two deer they found while driving home from a friend’s house in Wading River about 2 a.m. on Oct. 27.
The first deer was found trapped inside a fence near Grumman Memorial Park when Mr. Salzmann said he found and quickly released the animal. The other, he said, was found running parallel to the car on Hulse Landing Road with a bloody face.
Noticing the deer’s wound, Mr. Salzmann said they captured the animal to clean up its face. He chose not to call DEC to handle the situation because of the late hour, he said.
His account differs from the DEC statement that said the men trapped and wrangled the deer between the vehicle and the fence in order to hop out and catch it.
“They said we chased down the deer and cornered into the fence which is false,” Mr. Salzmann said to the Riverhead News-Review in a phone interview Wednesday. “We pulled one of the deer out and we were trying to help it. I go out and I try to do the right thing and it came back to bite me in the butt.”
The animals were released unharmed, according to DEC.
Officials said that on Halloween, they were forwarded pictures from the two separate incidents, one of which included one of the men drinking a Natural Ice beer. The following day, Mr. Salzmann said he and his friends were approached by Environmental Conservation Officers at Bean & Bagel, a bagel shop on Route 25 in Calverton.
While remorseful for taking photos with alcohol, Mr. Salzmann believes the group did the right thing for the deer.
“The photo that was taken with the beer was probably not the best photo, but the photo of us holding it and smiling – I don’t see any harm in that,” Mr. Salzmann said. “We didn’t have to bring it inside. It was just bleeding and we figured we’d clean it up and give it water.”
Mr. Salzmann said he and his friends were not intoxicated at the time of the incident.
The four men – ranging from ages 18 to 20 – were issued citations for illegal take and pursuit of protected wildlife. Officials said Mr. Salzmann, seen holding the deer in both photos, was given three tickets — two for illegally taking and pursuing deer, and one more for having an untagged deer head at his home.
Mr. Salzmann said that the untagged deer found on his property was the fault of Riverhead Police, and plans to fight that ticket.
“Riverhead Police Department was supposed to issue me a tag for a dead deer that was on the side of the road and that I took to my home, they said that the Ridge officer – where DEC is located – was unavailable, and the cop followed me home so I wouldn’t get in trouble from the DEC,” Mr. Salzmann said. “For that ticket, I blame the police department for not doing their job and not making out a deer report and issuing me a tag.”
Conor Lingerfelt, 19, of Jamesport, was given two citations for illegally taking and pursuing deer. He is spotted in both photos with Mr. Salzmann, officials said. Joseph Sacchitello, 20, of Riverhead, and Anthony Infantolino, 20, of Wading River, were each charged once. DEC officials said one of the photos has all four individuals with one stressed deer.
“Although these young men may have thought their actions were harmless and trivial, serious consequences can occur due to these types of actions,” said DEC Regional Director Peter Scully. “Wildlife can be dangerous and unpredictable, and DEC’s environmental conservation offices deserve recognition for their successful pursuit of this case.”
The four men are due in Riverhead justice court on Nov. 27. Each offense carries a $250 fine.
Mr. Salzmann said there is no danger of him losing his hunting license.