A red fox that roamed Robert Moses State Park was fatally shot by a man with a crossbow, state officials said in asking for the public’s help in finding the killer.
Minutes before its death Saturday, the fox had been loping along the dunes, looking for food there and from people, said witness Christina Daly, 31, a Glen Oaks photographer who had been trailing the creature in the snow to snap pictures.
“He’d run up on the dune and look around and when another car would come up, he would run down to that one,” she said. “I thought it was adorable.”
Outside parking field 2 just after 4 p.m., a balding man by the open trunk of Jaguar told her he saw a pair of foxes, pointing to the way she had just come, Daly said, but what she noticed was red fur under a tree just ahead of him.
The fox was lying unnaturally still. The man, however, was moving toward his vehicle as he spoke to Daly, she said.
“When he saw me look in that direction [toward the fox], he said ‘Oh, I saw one of them limping,’” Daly said. “As he was saying that to me, he was walking backward and heading back toward his car. That’s when I could see the arrow behind him in the ground.”
Moments after he drove off, Daly said she saw flecks of blood in the snow between the animal and the arrow.
“In my heart, I knew it was dead,” she said. “Poaching an animal that’s going up to you looking for food and you’re going to shoot it — that just seems wrong to me.”
Parks police took the arrow and the body. Daly photographed the Jaguar as it drove off, and park police told her they’re using her photo to track down the driver, she said.
State parks officials said hunting foxes and killing them are illegal on park land. Authorities typically warn against feeding or engaging with wild animals.
More than 20 red foxes have made the park their home, and over the decades, they’ve lost their fear of the humans who swarm the beaches during the summer.
“They’re tamer than dogs,” said Perry Waaland, 55, of Melville, who has been visiting the park several times a month for years.
The dead fox was a mature female tagged last April, one of 11 tagged so far as part of a Virginia Tech study into red foxes’ impact on Fire Island’s piping plovers, a threatened species, said Sarah Karpanty, an associate professor in charge of the red fox part of the project.
“She was a fox that was highly territorial,” Karpanty said. “She was living in an area that was intensively used by people.”
Daly said the Jaguar driver appeared to be in his 40s or 50s and wore a black suit jacket over a light pink button-down shirt and jeans. Parks police ask anyone with information to call 631- 669-2500.