Property managers on the privately-owned Robins Island, which has a residential community and a nature preserve in New York’s Peconic Bay, caught two poachers in what appears to be a larger operation. The island, about 435 acres in total, is tightly managed by its owners and staff.
The island is used for pheasant hunting and is home to a small number of deer, including rare albino deer, and other wildlife.
An employee wandered across a game camera and decided to think about things in terms of a hunter. Following the lay of the land, he found a landing for a boat along with gear and equipment.
“He started thinking in terms of ‘OK, how would I do this,’ and then came upon a low area on the west side of Robins and found a boat, a small 12-foot aluminum boat, several duffel bags with gear, and obviously the presence of people,” said Belvedere Property Management Vice President Peter Talty.
The employee, a security guard armed with a shotgun, went with two other employees into the nearby wooded area, where he found two men, one in coming down from a deer stand and the other prone on the ground, both wearing camo, carrying compound bows.
The men have been identified as Curt Jorgensen and Scott Russell. Jorgensen is a New York resident while Russel is from Connecticut.
“Obviously, most of this is directed toward a game infraction,” Mr. Talty said. “But they were getting close to residential properties, too. So we don’t know what this is right now. It could, in fact, be something about home invasion and personal safety here … It could be a bunch of things. This was sophisticated and thought out.”
The staff notified the Town of Southold police and the New York State Department of Conservation. Since then, they have found two more bows, a tent with provisions, five tree stands, camo netting, weighted chains and seven more game cameras.
The game cameras were all cellular with the ability to transmit video and still images remotely. Staffers turned over the cameras to the Department of Conservation.
According to police statements, one employee, identified as Troy Muller, threatened the men saying, “I’m going to kill you” and “I’m going to bury you on this island and no one will find you,” then fired his shotgun into the air.
“From the best we can tell, when security confronted them, one security guard fired off a shotgun that he had with them in the air,” said Southold Town Police Chief Martin Flatley.” “We’re investigating whether it was meant to threaten the two people or if it was a warning shot that was sent off. We’re reviewing it with the District Attorney’s office right now.”
Muller is not facing charges, although the investigation is still ongoing.
“He was just an employee doing his job, and that’s protecting the animals on this property,” said attorney Daniel Rodgers, representing the island’s owner. “These guys are not here to go after armed intruders and people with sophisticated equipment. If this does result in charges against the employee of the island, we intend to vigorously defend that case, and he will be fully exonerated.”
The island has markers indicating that it’s private property, although that doesn’t mean people don’t sometimes visit it accidentally. But it seems likely that these men were there to poach game.
“They had equipment,” Chief Flatley said. “A lot of pretty sophisticated hunting equipment, cameras and other gear.”