STATEN ISLAND — The first deer poacher arrested in the city pleaded guilty Friday and was hit with $3,000 in fines, the Staten Island District Attorney's office said.
David Oakes, 48, of Graniteville, was caught red-handed in November dressed in camouflage gear, carrying a bow and arrow and baiting deer with corn, investigators from the state Department of Environmental Conservation said.
He appeared on Friday in Staten Island Criminal Court and pleaded guilty to poaching charges, hunting with bait, hunting without a license and failure to tag, investigators said. He could face up to 70 days in jail if he does not pay all his fines.
Investigators had been tracking Oakes since he was suspected of hunting and beheading a deer in 2013. He was caught stalking the woods near Schmul Park Playground in November, they said.
Hunting deer is illegal across the five boroughs. Oakes also flouted state laws by baiting the deer, investigators said.
"That's not sporting at all, basically you're just killing the deer," an officer involved in the investigation told DNAinfo New York.
"This guy is not a hunter, he’s a poacher. He’s only out to kill these animals and he’s doing it in the most unethical way."
The investigator said that Oakes isn't the only poacher in the borough.
In the past two years, about two dozen mutilated deer corpses have been found scattered all over Staten Island, often beheaded or with their antlers removed, investigators said.
The rise in poaching coincides with a huge 3,200 percent jump in the deer population on Staten Island in six years, according to a Parks Department survey.
Edward Piwko, who's in charge with wildlife investigations at the DEC, asked island residents to be on alert for illegal poachers.
“[We're] basically spearheading what I hope [will] become many more cases in the future,” Piwko wrote in a Facebook post. “I’m glad the news is finally getting out. We’re on the island and [poachers] will be caught and prosecuted.”
Oakes was released and must pay the fines by May 21, the District Attorney's office said.
Oakes could not be reached for comment.