HAMPTON BAYS, N.Y. (CBSNewYork) — Wildlife advocates on Long Island say a hunting area right next to a hiking trail and wildlife rescue is a recipe for tragedy.
They wanted hunting access rescinded after a deer was shot and killed this week, just feet from the wildlife hospital.READ MORE: Upper Manhattan Blood Drive Aims To Address Local Shortage
It’s a place where injured wildlife is nursed back to health. A wood duck there is recovering from gunshot wound, along with a sea duck.
But while staff was busy healing Tuesday, bullets were flying outside, narrowly missing worker Saty Singh.
“Bang, bang, a couple more seconds, bang,” he told CBS2’s Carolyn Gusoff.
They ripped through animal enclosures and fencing and killed a deer less than 10 feet from the Evelyn Alexander Wildlife Center.
The rescue sits adjacent to state hunting grounds, but there’s a buffer around it that prohibits hunting.
“The first thing I saw was this deer flailing on its side, and then the next thing I saw was the hunter … I said, ‘Hey! Do you know this is a wildlife hospital?’ And he said, ‘I’m sorry, I was lost,'” Evelyn Alexander Wildlife Rescue Director Ginnie Frati said.
It’s not the first time this has happened.
“When we came here, there was no hunting here,” Frati said.
The center director says half a dozen times since a 2003 agreement allowed hunters to cross Suffolk parkland to get to the 200-acre Henry Hollow’s Hunting Area, shots and arrows have come dangerously close to a clearly marked hiking trail and recuperating wildlife.READ MORE: Violent Week In The Bronx Continues As Cab Driver Stabbed, Convenience Store Worker Robbed And Stabbed
“We found arrows on our property,” Frati said.
They’re asking Suffolk to rescind access or at least install better signage.
“I think there are plenty of places where hunters are allowed to shoot animals, and they shouldn’t be allowed to shoot them next to a wildlife hospital,” said John Di Leonardo, founder of Long Island Orchestrating for Nature.
The New York State Department of Environmental Conservation has called hunting there a legal recreational pursuit and important control of the deer population. Shotgun hunters are not supposed to come within 500 feet of the wildlife hospital.
“DEC is investigating the incident and will take appropriate actions after a thorough review,” the department told CBS2 in a statement.
Wildlife workers say it’s a disaster waiting to happen.
“It’s like having a children’s playground next to a porn shop,” Frati said.
Rescue center workers argue rescinding hunter access will not set a controversial precedent because it’s the only fully staffed wildlife hospital in Suffolk County. They plan to take that message to the Suffolk legislature.
The hunter, a man from Central Islip, told officers he entered the restricted area by mistake. Investigators found bullet holes in a shed an an animal housing facility, and shells within 500 feet of buildings.MORE NEWS: 'SNL' Comics Colin Jost, Pete Davidson Buy Staten Island Ferry Boat
Charges are now pending.