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Apr 5, 2016 5:28 PMPublication: The Southampton Press

Wildlife Rehabilitators Upset About DEC License Change

Virginia Frati, executive director of the Evelyn Alexander Wildlife Rescue Center, stands with a deer that came to her facility with a brain trauma. AMANDA BERNOCCO
Apr 5, 2016 5:28 PM

After a prolonged game of hide-and-seek in the fall, wildlife rehabilitators with the Evelyn Alexander Wildlife Rescue Center in Hampton Bays were able to tranquilize and rescue an overly friendly doe after she started making regular appearances near the Shinnecock Inlet.

It turns out that the doe had been shot in the head at some point prior to her capture last October, and a veterinarian later determined that its unusually tame nature could be attributed to the bullet lodged in her skull. Since then, officials at the wildlife center have been caring for the doe, explaining that it would be difficult for the animal to survive in the wild, as it is has grown accustomed to being fed by people.

They now plan to release the doe, explaining that after six months of treatment they now think she can learn to assimilate herself back into the wild.

But rescuers at the Hampton Bays facility are stewing over a new State Department of Environmental Conservation rule that now prohibits them—as well as other wildlife rehabilitators—from taking in vulnerable and injured deer.

Recent license changes for professional wildlife rehabilitators, modifications made with next to no advance notice, no longer allow volunteers to transport injured deer to their facilities for treatment. A document mailed just last month to wildlife rehabilitation centers states that they can no longer “accept, capture, posses, or rehabilitate adult white-tailed deer.”

The document also explains that rehabilitators can still help free a deer that is trapped or entangled, but they must immediately release the deer back into the wild after it is freed. The changes still allow for rehabilitation centers to care for fawns between April 15 and September 15, however.

“We’re very upset about it,” said Virginia Frati, executive director of the Evelyn Alexander Wildlife Rescue Center, of the recent DEC-imposed license changes. “They feel [that] wildlife rehabilitators are holding onto deer and fawn for too long.”

Ms. Frati explained that a deer that is caught in a fence might need to be brought back to the rehabilitation center for a few stitches and some rest. After a few days, that deer would typically be released back into the wild. The recent changes no longer permits volunteers to complete even the simplest of tasks, she added.

She also noted that the licensing modifications will prevent her rehabilitation center from responding to accidents where a car hits a deer.

“There is no reason for it,” Ms. Frati said of the changes. “Plus, who is going to help the deer who are hit by cars? [Police] don’t always want to shoot them if they can be saved.”

According to the new rules, volunteers can no longer rescue deer that are struck by vehicles and transport them back to their respective facilities so they can be nursed back to health or, if needed, euthanized to end their suffering. Ms. Frati said the rehabilitation center pays $5,000 per year to send a robocall out to volunteers whenever a deer on the South Fork is hit by a car and needs assistance.

Benning DeLaMater, a DEC public information officer, said the licensing changes were made because of concerns about the effectiveness of rehabilitating wild animals—especially deer. “Currently, there are approximately 1,400 licensed wildlife rehabilitators in New York State, and DEC renews licenses every five years,” he said in an email. “As part of this routine license review and update of the license, DEC clarified that the purpose of wildlife rehabilitation is to treat injured animals so they can be returned to the wild.

“Wildlife rehabilitators should not have any animals in their possession long term,” he continued, “or treat these animals as pets, which has been known to happen and is the basis for the amended license conditions.”

If an animal is in the care of a rehabilitation center and needs long-term care, the rehabilitation center must either send it to a place with a collect/possess license, such as a sanctuary, or humanely euthanize it, Mr. DeLaMater said in the email. “Violations of license conditions may result in the revocation of one’s license,” he added.

On March 23, the DEC met with the State Wildlife Rehabilitation Council in Albany to discuss the changes. Ms. Frati, who attended that meeting, said the DEC agreed to review the changes and will make a decision by May 1. Mr. DeLaMater said the DEC is still in the process of taking a second look at the recent modifications.

The license changes also prevent rehabilitation centers in New York from caring for swans, moose and American black bears.

The license for wildlife rehabilitators never addressed the use of tranquilizers, which Ms. Frati believes is the reason why the changes were made. A DEC representative visited the rescue center questioning the use of a tranquilizer shortly after an article was published in The Press about the center rescuing the deer from the Shinnecock Inlet, she said.

Mr. DeLaMater did not give a specific reason as to why the license changes were made in his email, noting that they are done internally and based on recommendations by staff and input from those who hold licenses.

When the rescue center uses a tranquilizer it is prescribed by a veterinarian, Ms. Frati said, adding that without the tranquilizer it would be impossible to get a deer into a van to be brought to the facility for treatment.

Under the new license agreement, all wild deer that have been tranquilized must have a tag put on their ear to signal to hunters that it has been injected with a tranquilizer.

Three of the deer that are currently rehabilitating at the rescue center will be released into the wild shortly because of the license changes, Ms. Frati explained. A fourth deer will be sent to the Holtsville Ecology Center in Brookhaven Town as it suffered brain trauma and would not be able to survive in the wild, she said. That deer was used at the rescue center as a surrogate mother to any fawns that needed to come in for rehabilitation.

Dell Cullum of East Hampton, who also holds a wildlife rehabilitation license, said he could not believe his eyes when he read the new license conditions mailed to his house. “How the hell can the state, New York State, order somebody to take the life of a living thing?” he asked. “How is that possible? How is it possible for the state to tell someone who loves animals to watch an animal die? It gets me so worked up that I’m shaking. It infuriates me.”

Mr. Cullum owns Hampton Wildlife Removal and Rescue in East Hampton, which saves animals entrapped at homes between Bridgehampton and Montauk. He rehabilitates some small animals, such as squirrels, at his East Hampton home but animals with more serious injuries are brought to the Evelyn Alexander Wildlife Rescue Center in Hampton Bays.

Mr. Cullum is well-known in East Hampton for his animal rescue services, and East Hampton Town Police often call on him when an animal is in danger.

“They usually call me when a deer is stuck in the fence,” Mr. Cullum said. “If I can get [the deer] out of the fence and it can run away, that’s fine. But other times it’s an injured deer and [police] need to make sure it can’t be saved before it gets put down … I don’t want to lose that. I’m hoping the police will still call me when there is an animal in need for help.”

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Can it be that the very people who care for injured animals made these recommendations to the DEC? That seems a bit odd. If you feel that this is an unjust determination write the DEC and the NYS wild life rescue council, an organization that is very self congratulatory in their efforts to protect wildlife, and state your dissatisfaction. In writing, although they are all on facebook too.

NYSWRC Membership Committee
1850 North Forest Rd.
Williamsville NY 14221

DEC ...more
By AL (83), southampton on Apr 7, 16 9:37 AM
Yes, that was an error on their part. The "licensed" people that made the recommendations were, I'm pretty sure, hunters.
By wildliferescuecenter (2), Hampton Bays on Apr 14, 16 3:15 PM
The wildlife rescue can no longer take in a deer who has been hit by a car? So we should just let it sit on the side of the road until it dies? How disgusting!!!. Please, if you care about the wildlife on the East End of Long Island, PLEASE write to the DEC and tell them this is beyond WRONG!

NYSWRC Membership Committee
1850 North Forest Rd.
Williamsville NY 14221

DEC Special Licenses Unit
Address: 625 Broadway, Albany NY 12233
E-mail: SpecialLicenses@dec.ny.gov
Phone: ...more
By Hillsnbells (43), Southampton on Apr 7, 16 7:51 PM
1 member liked this comment
Is there a example e-mail letter available I can modify
to send to them?
By Rich Morey (378), East Hampton on Apr 8, 16 10:02 AM
Rich, can you e-mail me at wrwrch@aol.com I have a few paragraphs I can give you. It would be appreciated. Thanks
By wildliferescuecenter (2), Hampton Bays on Apr 14, 16 3:18 PM
Wholesale changes need to be made at the DEC. Last year it recommended that all mute swans be slaughtered. This year it is proposing that injured animals of all species be left to die of their injuries. What makes it think that its mission is to inflict death and suffering on our wild animal population?

Let these callous bureaucrat be transferred to some state agency that doesn't deal with living beings and be replaced by compassionate guardians who actually care about the animals within ...more
By highhatsize (4217), East Quogue on Apr 7, 16 8:47 PM
1 member liked this comment
How awful. It doesn't appear the DEC is really interested in "conservation" !
By Rich Morey (378), East Hampton on Apr 8, 16 10:01 AM
Rich Morey you are a collage graduate. I think you should be able to write you're own statement to the DEC. Clay would write his own.
By lawnman (21), easthampton on Apr 8, 16 11:43 AM
Just because he can make a collage doesn't mean he can write;)
By dnice (2346), Hampton Bays on Apr 8, 16 2:44 PM
1 member liked this comment
True, I can.. and will. I just was interested in a template in case there were specific points that should be made in the letter / e-mail.
By Rich Morey (378), East Hampton on Apr 9, 16 12:14 PM