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                                                                                       by Marija Beqaj



The illegal shooting of a beautiful red fox that was familiar to many of us on Fire Island on Saturday morning, January 14 foreshadows an increase in poaching that is likely to result from the implementation of FINS thoroughly misguided Deer Management Plan.  The Plan includes a public HUNT that will be held according to all the typical NYSDEC regulations. --- Not only will hunters be issued NYSDEC deer hunting permits, but Fire Island will be listed among the official New York State deer hunting sites and the actual number of deer killed will be included in the annual state-wide “deer harvest” report.  The resulting publicity will give the perception that on our lovely barrier Island where deer were once humanely contracepted, it is now acceptable to kill animals with lethal weapons including crossbows. 


As the killing of the friendly fox suggests, poaching is not unknown on Fire Island.  Over the years there have been some unbelievably grisly examples.  In Ocean Beach a deer was once slaughtered with a hatchet.  In the western communities, the most splendidly antlered bucks were senselessly shot with target arrows.  Wounded deer with arrows visibly protruding wandered about for weeks and most if not all died slow agonizing deaths.  One severely injured buck was mercifully shot by a Ranger at the insistence of a Fair Harbor monitor for the PZP Deer Project and was autopsied by Ward Stone, then NYS Wildlife Pathologist, who reported that the remnant of an arrow lodged in the deer had resulted in septicemia. 


The most shocking incident that I personally experienced was in Saltaire.  When walking Bear-dog up to the Ocean on West Walk, he made a quick dash between two houses and disappeared momentarily in the federal land.  I became curious when he repeated this odd behavior for several mornings and followed him. A few steps past  the houses I was jolted by the macabre sight of two beheaded deer.  They were mature bucks that I had photographed many times over the years and could identify by their markings, I offered to accompany FINS with my Deer Project photographs to the local taxidermists who might be mounting the magnificently antlered deer heads for the ‘intrepid hunters who had slain two friendly deer’.   Regrettably, FINS showed no interest in pursuing the poachers.


However, the shooting of the red fox on Robert Moses Parkway near Parking Field 2 has engendered such outrage among Fire Islanders and others that it reached the Governor’s office.  I believe that the photo above was among those taken by a photographer who was tracking the fox.  Having momentarily lost sight of the animal, she spotted a well-dressed man putting a crossbow in the trunk of his white Jaguar.  As she approached him, she became aware that he was walking toward the now dead fox, perhaps to cut off its tail as a trophy, she thought.  After a brief exchange of words, he turned back to his car and drove off.  Despite the falling snow, the photographer managed to get shots of his license plate.  She gave over the photos to the State Park Police who have identified the driver and may charge him with several serious violations.


Not only is the cruel slaying of this friendly fox a harbinger of increased future poaching, but it also brings to light an irony:  while the killing of a single fox has outraged the public, yet FINS  plans to slaughter hundreds of deer --- which, like the fox, have little fear of humans.   The alternative to this killing is contraception.   Even New York City's Staten Island has gone a humane route.  Why is FINS ignoring the obvious solution?  It worked before, it can work again.


State: Red fox fatally shot at Robert Moses State Park