|Below are three articles from the Suffolk Times,
April 7, May 5, and May 12, 1916 about an effort to relieve Shelter Island
farmers of the wild deer on the Island that were destroying crops. Deer are
not indigenous to the Island, but were introduced by Francis Marion Smith,
the Borax King, into his Deer Park between 1892 and 1900. They were constantly
escaping, both on the Island and across the channel to North Haven. Deer
remain a problem to gardeners on the Island and in North Haven.
April 7th 1916
It is reported that wild deer are doing considerable damage on the Island. Those who have suffered most, wrote to the state Conservation Commission, who came here to investigate. It is said the commission offered no relief. It is reported that being unable to get relief from the state, they are going to take the law in their own hands, although it is generally stated that there have been a number of venison dinners on Shelter Island and Greenport.
May 5th 1916
To save the Deer
Tremendous opposition prevents slaughter at Shelter Island
Little did a few of the people of Shelter Island realize that they would stir the pulse of the state and the nation when they applied to get rid of some of the wild deer which were damaging crops of Shelter Island farmers.
Responding to thousands of protests state conservation Commissioner George D. Pratt has countermanded the order for the slaughter of the red deer and let it be known that the whole problem would be reconsidered. The pot hunt was scheduled for Monday last and a half dozen deputies with their guns arrived in Greenport for the purpose on Sunday stopping at the Wyandank. They went to Shelter Island on Monday morning to look the situation over.
The expedition that arrived in Greenport was in the Charge of Division Chief, Byron T. Cameron, assisted by Chief Charles R. Stapley and others. Mr. Cameron had a long conversation with state officials at Albany over the long distance telephone on Monday and it was immediately decided to proceed and corral the deer.
The plan adopted is to drive the deer down into a section of the woods where two big leaders will be built of high fence wire. These leaders will extend it to an opening at Mashomuck (sic) Point where a high fence enclosure will be provided. The deer will then be captured, boxed, and sent to their destinations, some up to public parks and others to the Adirondacks, it is stated.
Mashomuck Point projects out into Shelter Island Sound between Russell's Neck and Cedar Island, and it is predicted that some of the deer may attempt to swim over to Hogs Neck which leads to the mainland at Sag Harbor. Waters in that locality will be patrolled by several fast motorboats and if any deer appear, they will be caught by men in the boats.
Some of the local hunters say that the deputies will have more of a job than they figure on in catching the elusive deer, but Mr. Cameron and his picked men represent the most competent hunters in the State who know every habit of the deer.
It is estimated that the expense will be in the neighborhood of $10,000, and that it will require two weeks' time to get the 100 or more deer. This expense will be born by sporting organizations and hunting clubs throughout the State which do not like to see the animals killed.
The trappers are stopping with Irving Clark at the South Ferry House, and expect it to start today to make their first drive. New York newspapers have representatives there including photographers. Moving picture cameras will also be kept busy. Newspapers are collecting funds to pay for the capture. William Rockefeller has offered to donate $500 if needed, to the fund.
Commissioner Pratt held out to the last minute. He called to the city Byron Cameron, the chief Warden of the Adirondack division, who is the premier sharpshooter of the Department, to head the drive, and with him are 25 wardens in the sharpshooting class. All preparations for the beg hunt had been made when the order was countermanded.
Governor Whitman's desk in Albany was piled high with personal appeals to save the State from the "disgrace of so barbaric an exhibition" as one writer phrased it. The governor went to New York as did Commissioner Pratt, and it is understood that the order to turn Shelter Island into a game shambles was revoked on the Governor’s personal instruction.
Henry H. Wood, of Oyster Bay, telephoned to the Brooklyn Times that he would contribute to fund to capture and transport the deer, and he promised that more than enough money would be raised if the slaughter was postponed but a week.
Dr. William P. Hornaday, director of the Bronx Zoo, and an authority second to none on outdoor life, sent an appeal to the Conservation Commission for delay.
"Let the order be withdrawn for a week at least ." said Dr. Hornaday. " I have said that this thing seems necessary, but the more I think of it, the more I am convinced that it would be better to wait awhile. They can be captured and transported of course, but it is an expensive method. Still perhaps that would be better. Let us wait and see. "
Senator George L. Thompson and other prominent officials of Suffolk County wrote to Commissioner Pratt, requesting him to rescind the order. Justice George W. Hildreth, under sheriff Alvin Squires, Surrogate's Clerk William H. Mott, Dr. A. Terrell and other members of the Riverhead Gun Club have volunteered their services to organize a squad of hunters to go to Shelter Island and attend to capture the deer alive and turn them loose in other sections of the county where they will not do any damage to farm crops.
Last Friday night, Commissioner Pratt was firm in the determination to let the drive begin on Monday. And made the following statement in explanation of his attitude:
"The deer have become as numerous and as pestiferous as jack rabbits, and it has become practically impossible to grow anything on the Island. Shelter Island is too big to permit driving the deer to one spot for capture. If it were winter they might be baited and trapped, but even that would be doubtful. The Commission felt that it would not be right to make farmers go through another season with a practical certainty of having their crops ruined. While the position of the Commission is extremely difficult, the public, and especially naturalists and persons interested in preserving wild game, must note that the Commissioners have considered every possible expedient and have found that no suggestion looking toward the preservation or the removal to another feeding ground is practicable. "
Dr. McKay Nichols. Jr., (sic) whose father owns a large estate on Shelter Island, expressed to chief Gallagher the point of view of Shelter Island residents.
"We hate to see these deer killed, " said Dr. Nichols, " but they are too destructive. They can't be captured nor could they be driven into the sea between Shelter Island and Sag Harbor. The tide would be too strong for them. Besides the Sag Harbor residence have informed us that they don't want them. "
It was learned that E. D. Ibbotson, a manufacturer of Utica, is willing to pay from $10 to $25 for every deer captured. He wants to liberate them in the Adirondacks . Commissioner Pratt said that if Mr. Ibbotson had a practical scheme for capturing the deer, an effort would be made to round them up.
Park Commissioner Raymond V. Ingosoll of Brooklyn said,
"I will take one buck and three or four doe for Prospect. We can find room for them."
Park Commissioner John E. Weir of Queens said:
"We could take care of about 20 deer, including two bucks. A paddock could be built for them at very little cost, right near the place where the elk are kept in Forest Park. A small herd of deer would be of valuable addition to the attractions of the park ."
May 12, 1916
Deer drive stops
But some of them are caught at Shelter Island
Considerable excitement prevailed on Shelter Island Tuesday night when Thomas F. Freil, Superintendent of the American Society of the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals, of 26th Street and Madison avenue, New York, together with Garret W. Howard, special agent, came here to inspect the methods of capturing the deer.
Mr. Freil and Mr. Howard came on the evening train and went immediately over to Shelter Island. A special representative of State Conservation Commissioner Pratt's office was also on the train.
This representative came in response to a telegram to Mr. Pratt’s office for Mr. Cameron, division chief, working on Shelter Island, who realized the futility of continuing the undertaking. He advised a halt, and the work stopped.
The officers of the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Association said that no fault could be found with the way the wardens were conducting the work except that the entire procedure was inhumane.
Division chief Cameron and his assistants were really glad to quit. They have admitted that conditions on Shelter Island were misrepresented to them by the complainants. The deputies were under many difficulties. Some of the local hunters worked against them, taking offense at what they called outside interference with their rights. In fact some of the local residents even chased some of the deer over to big Ram Head, via the golf links a Dering Harbor, in order to prevent the wardens getting them.
Mr. Cameron says the number of deer has been exaggerated. The wardens saw actually 24 deer, trapped 14, and shipped six. Eight of those died from wounds.
The entire proceeding has been a mistake. That is evident now. The local people have objected to the outsiders coming in and shipping the deer Up State.
The work of catching the Shelter Island deer has attracted the attention of sportsmen throughout the country. And the prediction of some of our local hunters has come true, in a measure, at least.
These men said that the 30 or more picked game protectors and hunters from up the State would have a hard job to corral the elusive deer. Some of these men even said that very few, if any, would be captured.
But the men, under the supervision of Byron 8 Cameron, the division chief, have worked valiantly, and undergone much physical strain.
The first real shipment of the captured deer took place Tuesday morning when six were crated and shipped via South Ferry and Sag Harbor on the 6:42 train.
These deer were shipped to Utica Park, Utica, N.Y.
Up until Tuesday morning, there had been 12 deer caught. Tuesday afternoon there was another terrific drive and two more were taken on Mashomuck Point, making 14 in all. Two more were located on Ram's Head, but they got away. Mr. Kirby, who was in the party making the drive saw a fox, and after hard chase, captured him.
Several of the deer were killed during the capture, or died from the effects of the fight. Some of these deaths were caused by the frightened animals dashing into the wire fences. They struck with such force they were thrown back on their haunches, in a couple of instances breaking their necks.
The Deer drive at Mashomuck Point by 33 game protectors on Sunday was spoiled when scores of spectators, including an automobile party, penetrated the line. Ten deer, after been driven, became frantic when they heard the noise, and despite every effort of the drivers to prevent them the terror stricken animals broke through the line and regained their stamping grounds.
Complaint has been made by the game wardens of lack of cooperation by residents of the Island in the capturing of the deer against which some charges of depredation have been made. It was believed by George D. Pratt, the Conservation Commissioner, that the game protectors would be amply supported by the farmers of the Island who had many times demanded that the deer be exterminated, but in this he was disappointed, not an offer of assistance having been made.
The protectors began their drive through the Nicoll’s estate at eight o'clock after Mr. Cameron had instructed his men to do all in their power to make the roundup a success. The 33 men, all of them experienced hunters of big game, beat the brush in a line as straight as an arrow four or five rods apart, each zigzagging his course to cover every available foot of thicket ground, much of which had been neglected by the inexperienced volunteers in Friday's drive.
While the driver was in progress a drenching rain began to fall and this continued intermittently until noon, when another drive was made from Mashomuck Point to Sachem's Neck to which place some 18 deer had been driven on Friday. Only two deer were found on the small stretch of land but, like the deer on the other side of the barrier, they refused to approach the corral, and after working hard for more than our to drive the deer to water, where they could more easily be captured, the protectors gave up their efforts and permitted the animals to break through the line and seek refuge in the dense woods at the point.
Sportsmen in this section were really interested in the results of the deer drive. It was generally admitted the the drive demonstrated beyond question the futility of any intent to drive deer into traps. Of the 20 deer driven toward the barrier at Sachem's Neck, not one entered the trap, even though the entrance was disguised with branches of trees. It proved also the deer can not be forced to go in one direction when their fears are roused as was the case on Friday and Sunday, and that they will go to their death if necessary by doubling on their tracks.
Charles B. Stapley, Cameron’s assistant, was not on the scene of the drive Monday, having contracted a bad cold in the expedition. He remained at the camp taking charge of the captured animals. He says that the deer in the barn were becoming very tame.
Scientists from the Museum of Natural History were on the scene and took charge of the animals that died in the drive. The deer will be used for research purposes.
Sunday was a great day for the photographers and moving picture men. The state boat Olive and the power sloop. Jessie M., hired by the Commission, were a grandstands for the photographers.
A doe started to swim to the mainland and was drowned. Her body was picked up on the shore between East Marion and Greenport.