12/11/13 4:00pm
12/11/2013 4:00 PM
BARBARAELLEN KOCH FILE PHOTO | The Riverhead Town Board is considering allowing deer hunting at EPCAL

BARBARAELLEN KOCH FILE PHOTO | The Riverhead Town Board is considering allowing deer hunting at EPCAL

A lottery for Riverhead residents and landowners to hunt on town-owned land in Calverton will be held next Monday in town hall.

The annual hunt during the special firearms season, for shotgun and muzzleloaders, is open from Jan. 6 through Jan. 31, on weekdays. Riverhead officials started opening up lands at Enterprise Park at Calverton a few years ago to thin the herd, though this season, three-day slots that hunters had been given last year will be reduced to two-day openings.

The lottery will take place at 7 p.m. in town hall. Applicants must be in attendance in order to participate, and proper ID and hunting license must be presented at the time of the lottery.

For more information, interested hunters can contact Councilman George Gabrielsen at 727-3200, ext. 223.

12/05/13 12:00pm
12/05/2013 12:00 PM
JIM COLLIGAN FILE PHOTO

JIM COLLIGAN FILE PHOTO

North Fork legislators are lobbying the chair of the state’s Environmental Conservation Committee to pass a bill that would have given local municipalities on the East End the authority to loosen some restrictions on deer hunting had it not been stalled in the lower house of the state Legislature last year.

In a letter addressed to state Assemblyman Robert Sweeney (D-Lindenhurst), Suffolk County Legislator Al Krupski — the initial author of the letter, which was written late last month — said “the overpopulation of white-tailed deer is a crisis which has plagued the East End of Long Island for many years, negatively impacting not only human health, but water quality, biodiversity, private property, the economy and the agricultural industry.”

The four-page letter — supported so far by Southold Town, the Village of Greenport and groups including the North Fork Environmental Council, North Fork Audubon Society and North Fork Deer Management Alliance — calls upon Mr. Sweeney to move the bill out of the committee it never left last year, so the entire Assembly can vote on it. The state Senate passed the bill, 59-2, in May.

Steven Liss, a legislative aide to Mr. Sweeney, said in a phone conversation that officials with the Department of Environmental Conservation — which regulates hunting in New York State — expressed concern about granting towns and villages the option to loosen state regulations. State Senator Ken LaValle (R-Port Jefferson) said he recalled no such opposition while passing the bill last year. A DEC spokesperson said the authority does not comment on pending legislation.

Mr. Liss said that if the deer “crisis” is as severe as some say it is, measures more drastic than deregulating hunting laws will be needed to reduce the herd. He pointed to a plan which Southold Town will be implementing, made possible through a Long Island Farm Bureau grant, that involves hiring United States Department of Agriculture sharpshooters to use measures above and beyond state law <\h>— including baiting and hunting at night <\h>— to cut down drastically the number of deer in the area. Riverhead officials have expressed skepticism to this plan, however, noting that opening more opportunities to hunters would be more preferable than spending money to bring in hunters from outside the area.

“If we’re talking about opening up hunting opportunities, we support that,” Mr. Liss said. “But if we’re talking about culling the herd down to a manageable level, that’s a different conversation.”

The amendments to the state hunting law proposed by Assemblyman Fred Thiele last year would have given the five East End towns the ability to reduce bowhunting setbacks down to 150 feet, from the current state regulations of 500 feet. In addition, opening up a special firearms hunting season for the entire month of January was proposed; currently, only weekdays are allowed. These measures, as well as a couple of other changes offered by Mr. Thiele, were suggested in a deer management plan published by the DEC in October 2011.

In September, a forum hosted by the town on the topic of culling the herd brought out over 300 residents interested in the issue. Southold Supervisor Scott Russell called the problem of deer overpopulation a “public health crisis” at the time.

Because of opposition to reducing setbacks he says Mr. Sweeney has expressed, Mr. Thiele — who represents the South Fork and Shelter Island — said in a Tuesday interview that he plans submitting two bills related to deer management next month when the Assembly returns to Albany. One, he said, would expand the opportunity for localities statewide to reduce their setbacks and the other deals with all the other elements of the original bill.

While he sees no single solution to the deer problem in the immediate future, Mr. Thiele said it’s a step in the right direction.

“All we are trying to do is follow the deer management plan,” he said. “To use a bad pun, no silver bullet is going to solve this issue. But this is one way to work toward that. Every little bit counts.”

The letter to Mr. Sweeney, chair of the Environmental Conservation Committee since 2007, goes beyond the previously proposed amendments to state law, proposing the use of baits as well as trapping and humane euthanasia of deer.

“Every humane tool must be utilized to get our deer population down to reasonable levels as soon as possible,” the letter states.

While the future of the bill in the Assembly remains unclear, Mr. LaValle said he should have no problem passing the new bill through the state Senate next year.

11/27/13 2:00pm
11/27/2013 2:00 PM
Instagram photo, courtesy Department Environmental Conservation

DEC COURTESY INSTAGRAM PHOTO | This photo posted to Instagram was taken after the four men allegedly captured the deer, DEC officials said. One of the men later said the charges were exaggerated.

The four local men accused of snapping photos with a pair of deer they pursued and captured before putting them online earlier this month were each offered a reduced fine in exchange for community service Wednesday morning.

The plea deal came during an appearance in Riverhead Town court for the four defendants: 18-year-old George Salzmann of Calverton, 19-year-old Conor Lingerfelt of Jamesport, 20-year-old Joseph Sacchitello of Riverhead and 20-year-old  Anthony Infantolino of Wading River.

All were offered 20 hours of community service per ticket in exchange for reducing the maximum $250 fine to $100 per citation, prosecutors said in court. If they take the deal, the men would also have to pay a $75 surcharge.

The four were not required to plead in court, and would get the benefits of the deal if they complete the community service before their next court appearances in January. Court officials said one of the four might decide not to take the offer, and would have to pay the full fine if found guilty.

Department of Environmental Conservation officials said they were tipped off on Halloween when someone sent the two pictures to them, one of which apparently showed the four men smiling while one held the deer and another held a can of beer in the air.

The pictures had been posted on Instagram, a social media photo sharing website.

Instagram photo, courtesy Department Environmental Conservation

DEC COURTESY INSTAGRAM PHOTO

Authorities said the Mr. Salzmann and Mr. Lingerfelt caught the first deer while it was trapped inside a fence.

The other deer, officials said, was caught after it was chased down on Hulse Landing Road in Wading River and trapped between the four men’s vehicle and a fence. Authorities said both deer were apparently brought back to Mr. Infantolino’s house in Wading River and were later released unharmed.

The four men were issued citations for illegal take and pursuit of protected wildlife. Officials said Mr. Salzmann was given three tickets — two for illegally taking and pursuing deer, and one more for having an untagged deer head at his home.

Mr. Lingerfelt was given two citations for illegally taking and pursuing deer. He is spotted in both photos with Mr. Salzmann, officials said. Mr. Sacchitello and Mr. Infantolino, 20, of Wading River, were each charged once.

DEC officials found the four men at Bean & Bagel on Route 25 in Calverton the next day and cited them for the incident.

“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 earlier this month.

But one of the men disputed the DEC’s claims. Mr. Salzmann told the News-Review that the four hadn’t trapped the deer, but instead were caring for it after they found it injured on the side of the road.

“I go out and I try to do the right thing and it came back to bite me in the butt,” he said on Nov. 13. He said he regretted taking the photo with alcohol, but denied any of the four were intoxicated and said they did the right thing.

“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.

11/25/13 10:00am
11/25/2013 10:00 AM
PAUL SQUIRE PHOTO | Southold Supervisor Scott Russell addresses the crowd at Saturday's deer management meeting in Orient.

PAUL SQUIRE PHOTO | Southold Supervisor Scott Russell addresses the crowd at Saturday’s deer management meeting in Orient.

A sharpshooting program is in the works to cull the North Fork’s rising deer population, town officials and volunteers said at a deer management forum in Orient Saturday morning.

Don Stewart with the North Fork Deer Management Alliance volunteer group said he is hopeful the program — which uses teams of skilled marksmen to eliminate dozens of deer at a time — will begin next month.

The sharp shooter program is run through the U.S. Department of Agriculture Wildlife Services department, and will be paid for in part by a $200,000 grant secured by the Long Island Farm Bureau. The five East End Towns will have an opportunity to pay their own funds into the program, Mr. Stewart said.

About 50 people attended the forum held at Poquatuck Hall in Orient, the second Town meeting on deer control this fall after more than 200 people crowded into a forum in Peconic in September.

By aggressively cutting down the deer population, Mr. Stewart said, the North Fork will see less environmental damage from deer grazing, fewer tick-borne illnesses and will reduce deer-related car accidents.

While hunting by locals is a valuable part of deer management, it would not cause the “radical reduction” necessary on its own to bring the deer to manageable levels, Mr. Stewart said.

Other so-called humane approaches, like sterilization or contraception techniques, are more complex than they seem and would not do enough to limit the deer population, he added.

“At best its only going to keep an unacceptably high level of deer from expanding further,” Mr. Stewart said. “You’re not going to bring these levels down to where you need it.”

Having sharpshooters pick off dozens of deer seems cruel, he said, but it’s better than having hunters who might miss their shots do the bulk of the culling.

“You [won't] have animals that are wounded walking around the countryside,” he said.

The Town of Southold has taken steps to make it easier for hunters to tag deer, like waiving fees on carcasses and opening up town land to hunters. But town officials said private land owners need to open up their properties to hunters. Otherwise the deer will simply move to safer areas and continue to reproduce.

Supervisor Scott Russell had said state regulations on hunting have limited the town’s efforts so far. Hunters are not allowed to hunt within 500 feet of structures, including sheds.

Mr. Russell said the law is designed for rural areas like upstate New York, but doesn’t account for the denser population on the North Fork.

Speaker Sherry Thomas said the deer population will reach catastrophic levels soon if proactive steps are not taken. While deer management officials say there should be no more than 15 deer per square mile, the North Fork has about 65 per square mile, she said.

If nothing is done to stop the deer population explosion, there could be an estimated 400 deer per square mile in the next 10 years, Ms. Thomas said.

“It’s only going to go from unsustainable to disastrous,” she said.

psquire@timesreview.com

11/13/13 5:30pm
11/13/2013 5:30 PM

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.

George Salzmann

George Salzmann

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.

Instagram photo courtesy of the Department of Environmental Conservation

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.

11/13/13 2:23pm
Instagram photo, courtesy Department Environmental Conservation

Instagram photo courtesy of the Department of Environmental Conservation

After posting pictures of themselves on Instagram with a pair of live deer they caught, four local young men who were later caught by Department of Environmental Conservation officers in Calverton face citations for illegally taking and pursuing wildlife.

DEC officials said they were tipped off on Halloween when someone sent the two pictures to them, which were posted on the social media photo sharing website. The next day, the four men were spotted at a local business in Calverton, however it was not immediately clear at which establishment they were seen.

The four men – ranging from ages 18 to 20 – were issued citations for illegal take and pursuit of protected wildlife. Officials said 18-year-old George Salzmann of Calverton, 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.

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.

According to DEC spokeswoman Aphrodite Montalvo, one deer had been trapped inside a fence when Mr. Salzmann and Mr. Lingerfelt wrangled it. The other, she said, was tracked down on Hulse Landing Road in Wading River by the four men. She said as they drove their vehicle parallel to the deer alongside deer fence on the road, they cut off the deer and trapped it between the vehicle and the fence. They were then able to hop out and catch it.

Both deer were apparently brought back to Infantolino’s house in Wading River. Ms. Montalvo said both deer involved in the incidents were released unharmed.

“The pursuit and capture of native wildlife is not tolerated in New York State,” said DEC Regional Director Peter Scully. “Although these young men may have thought their actions were harmless and trivial, serious consequences can occur due to these types of actions. 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.

Individuals who spot illegal activities are encouraged to call DEC’s Environmental Conservation Police at (631) 444-0250 during business hours, and 1-877-457-5680 or 1-800-TIPP-DEC at all other times to report suspected illegal activities.

Instagram photo, courtesy Department Environmental Conservation

Instagram photo courtesy of the Department of Environmental Conservation

09/05/13 2:00pm
09/05/2013 2:00 PM

JIM COLLIGAN FILE PHOTO | Hunters who live or own property in Riverhead Town can apply for a bow hunting lottery Sept. 16.

Riverhead Town will hold a bow hunting lottery on Monday, Sept. 16, at 7 p.m. in the Town Board meeting room, according to Councilman George Gabrielsen.

Bow hunting of deer will be allowed at the Enterprise Park at Calverton and on 32 acres of town-owned land at 1751 Sound Ave. in Calverton.

Bow hunting season will run from Oct. 7 through Dec. 1, Mr. Gabrielsen said.

The lottery is limited to people who live or own property in Riverhead Town and applicants must show up at the Sept. 16 lottery in order to participate, he said. The town will not allow people to pick up hunting slots for others who are not present at the lottery, he said.

tgannon@timesreview.com

12/16/12 8:25am
12/16/2012 8:25 AM

CHRISTINE SACKETT COURTESY PHOTO | This Piebald doe, the mother of three fawns, is often seen in Wading River.

What are those ghostly looking deer?
The answer is piebald deer, the name given to a small number of rare animals that appear two-toned in color. Hunters and conservationists say there’s one in just about every hamlet of Southold Town, at least two in Riverhead and at least one on Shelter Island.
“There’s been more showing up in the last few years,” said Jeff Standish, a hunter who serves as deputy director of Southold Town’s department of public works. “There’s at least five between Orient and Laurel. There’s one in Peconic, one in Mattituck, one in Cutchogue, one right here in Southold village and a 12-year-old piebald I know of from Orient who recently passed away.”

Piebald is a 16th-century word that refers to the black and white plumage of the magpie bird; “pie” refers to the bird and “bald” means “white” or “spotted.”

The blotchy deer, which in some cases appear almost pure white, are the result of a recessive gene, said Aphrodite Montalvo, citizen participation specialist with the New York State Department of Conservation.

“A piebald deer is a partial albino, or is only partially missing pigmentation,” she said. “A true albino will have no pigmentation, so it will have pink eyes and nose and be fully white.”

Ms. Montalvo said the animals are rare; though the DEC has not conducted studies on the number of piebald deer, data from other states suggest they constitute less than 1 percent of the population.

That number can be slightly higher in protected areas or areas where natural predators such as the coyote or bobcat have been removed from the landscape, Ms. Montalvo added. They may occur more frequently here than in upstate areas, where predators can pick off the snowy fawns, whose natural response is to lie down and hide in dense cover.

“As you can imagine, it makes it difficult to hide when the animal is stark white,” she said.

“That’s the neatest part about these deer,” said Mr. Standish. “They don’t know they’re white, but they still have that instinct to hide. So you’ll see a buck lying down in a pile of briars, but he’s standing out clear as day.”

Cutchogue hunter Lisa Dabrowski said that although she hasn’t hunted in many years, when she did she let piebald deer be and believes other hunters do the same, even though they are easier targets than most.

In fact, she said she considers the animals good luck and recently fi lmed one she’s seen in the Fort Corchaug area.

“Most hunters have a great respect for nature,” Ms. Dabrowski said. “Just because it’s a white deer doesn’t mean it’s something someone will go make a trophy out of. It’s something we appreciate and protect. Most hunters will look at it from afar and only want to photograph it because it’s special.”

In addition to their unusual color, the bodies of piebald deer are somewhat different, said Ms. Dabrowski.

“They have narrower heads and short legs but are the same length,” she said.

Despite piebalds’ unique look, Ms. Dabrowski and Mr. Standish said, the unusual deer behave like all other white-tailed deer and are not shunned for their appearance.

“Let’s say a doe had two fawns and one was piebald, I never saw the doe not be with that fawn,” Mr. Standish said. “I was watching a piebald buck rut one time and he rutted like any other buck would. He just had longer hair and looked short and stocky. If I hadn’t known better, I would have thought he was a goat,”

Riverhead hunters are also familiar with the ghostly deer in local forests.

Tom Gabrielsen, brother of Riverhead Town Councilman George Gabrielsen, said he’s seen one while hunting on the former Grumman property in Calverton.

He watched another piebald grow from a fawn to a huge buck in Sears Bellows County Park in Hampton Bays. Though he was a 12-pointer (more points mean a larger rack of antlers), Mr. Gabrielsen said hunters let him be, especially at a park ranger’s request.

Hunters aren’t the only people who enjoy the piebald deer.

One animal in Wading River earned the affectionate handle “Sweetie Pie” from resident Christine Sackett.

Ms. Sackett, who has lived in the hamlet for just over a year, said she sees “Sweetie Pie” and her three fawns just about every dawn and dusk.

Animals that are most active in the morning and at twilight are called crepuscular, as opposed to nocturnal or diurnal. The reason deer are such a hazard to drivers is they’re most active during commuting hours. Ms. Sackett normally sees Sweetie Pie and family at around 6 a.m. and 6 p.m.

She and her husband can now come within two feet of the deer without disturbing them, she said, as they have come to know their friendly human neighbors.

“She has one fawn from last year who stays with her and she had twins this past year,” she said. None of the offspring is piebald. “I just started calling her Sweetie Pie because I was thinking she’s very gentle and she’s a piebald, so, Sweetie Pie.”

 gvolpe@timesreview.com