Staten Island Advance, April 14th, 2015
STATEN ISLAND, N.Y. — Now that the winter snow has melted, hikers have been making gruesome discoveries — more evidence of deer poaching on Staten Island.
On Sunday, an Advance reader on the South Shore came across the headless carcass of a deer in the woods off Sharrotts Road, below Arthur Kill Road and close to the shoreline, and reported it to the state Department of Environmental Conservation.
"That deer appeared to have died in the fall (season)," said a source familiar with the poaching investigation on Staten Island.
"What’s happening now is, they got covered over with snow, they froze, they’re thawing out, and people are finding them on back trails when they’re hiking again."
The borough’s deer population has exploded on Staten Island, from 24 in 2008 to 793 last year, and that has brought with it dozens of instances of illegal deer poaching here.
Last month, David G. Oakes of Mariners Harbor pleaded guilty to illegally taking a deer, in what’s believed to be the first-ever deer-poaching prosecution in New York City.
Oakes — who was caught with a bow and arrows in Schmul Park, behind Schmul Playground, last November, authorities said — agreed to pay $3,000 in fines.
Deer poaching has become so common on Staten Island that the state DEC – which tracked Oakes over the course of a year — had tasked a three-officer team to investigating the practice.
The law currently prohibits hunting within the five boroughs, while bow-hunting only is permitted in Suffolk and Westchester counties.
Poachers are most interested in a deer’s antlers to keep as a trophy — hence the headless carcasses — and deer lose their antlers around February, the source said.
They regrow new antlers each year, and those antlers are covered in velvet until the end of the summer.
Investigators won’t know if Oakes’ arrest has deterred future poachers until August or September.
"That’s when the velvet comes off their antlers and the poachers come out. That’s when they’ll start shooting them again," the source said.
Also, on March 30, Rob Foran of Tompkinsville told the Advance that he spotted four piles of deer feed while he was out hiking off Rockland Avenue by Nevada Avenue.
He reported his findings to the DEC, worried that a poacher might have set it as bait.
The source said that it’s difficult to prove if the food was left by a poacher or by someone simply looking to feed deer in the area.
Said Foran, "It’s strange, it’s so close to the road, but if you’re gonna drag a deer out, this is the place to do it…. It makes sense to me, the spot, but, again it could have just been somebody feeding the deer."
Last month, New York State Environmental Conservation Officer Edward Piwko sent out a notice asking the people to report any suspected poaching scenes they come across. That notice was republished on the popular Facebook.com page of Michael Reilly, a retired police lieutenant and president of the Staten Island Community Education Committee.