Hunting Accident File > VIOLATIONS

Trespassing complaints rise with hunting season underway

November 3, 2011

By Tara Garcia Mathewson, TheDailyNewsOnbline.com

ALBION Jerry Culhane moved onto 180 acres of property in Albion about seven years ago. The former owners were elderly and didn't get around enough to patrol their property. When Culhane moved in, trespassing was a regular problem, especially during hunting season.

It's not that Culhane doesn't want anyone on his property, but he wants to know who they are and when they're there.

''I've caught people sneaking on here and they're all in camouflage during deer season hiding behind a tree,'' Culhane said. "I don't want to shoot somebody if I don't know they're there."

Deer season started Oct. 15, marking a time of year when property owners across the region will have to deal with unwanted visitors to their land.
According to environmental conservation officers, this is the time of year trespassing complaints go up.

But Lt. Peter Barton of the Department of Environmental Conservation estimated police probably only hear about 25 percent of actual trespassing cases.

"Lots of times I'm getting calls where it's the second or third occurrence,"
Barton said. "Or for the fourth time that morning, they caught another trespasser."

It is even rarer for trespassing cases to go through the court system.
Generally property owners decide to handle it themselves and simply ask people to leave. Barton even tells landowners once a couple people are arrested for trespassing, word gets around and people stay away.

Culhane had to call the police for snowmobiling trespassers soon after he moved onto his new piece of property and later sent official letters to area hunters who trespassed telling them to stay out of his woods. Once he took a stand, the problems seemed to go away.

Based on New York State law, people must leave another's property when asked to do so whether that property is posted or not. But landowners are still encouraged to post signs along the boundaries of their properties.

Chris Sartwell, who owns more than 400 acres in Gaines, said her safety is a major concern when she is alone in her own backyard.

"I want to hunt on my property and I want to feel safe that when I am hunting that I am safe and will not be shot by someone else," she said.

What's more, there is an unwanted level of vulnerability for Sartwell when approaching armed strangers.

By law property owners have the right to confront trespassers and write down their license and contact information. If the hunter doesn't offer up a license, separate charges can be filed.

That's why Barton, the conservation officer, said hunters are told in training classes it's best to get permission to hunt on private property and then treat the land as if it were their own. His advice this time of year is for hunters to do just that and for landowners to post their property.

But if there are problems, the DEC's 24-hour dispatch line is (877) 457-5680.

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