With the great East End deer cull looming closer every day, one local animal advocate has been working double time on a solution he believes will protect the ruminant mammals from sharpshooters’ bullets.
Since learning that the Long Island Farm Bureau and local officials plan to have thousands of area deer killed by federal sharpshooters, Manny Fabrele, a retired Marine Corps Scout Sniper and Montauk resident, said he’s labored tirelessly to develop and mass produce a bulletproof vest for the animals. “I’ve seen what happens at the other end of a rifle,” Fabrele said, “and I’m not about to sit by and let that happen to these innocent creatures.”
A self-described “tinkerer,” Febrele said he made his first DeerVest prototype using Kevlar and plating from several pieces of military-grade body armor, which he fashioned into a sizable vest that covers the largest part of a deer’s torso. In its current form, the vest is secured using three wide straps, though Febrele said he may one day extend his design to cover the lower portion of a deer’s neck, which would require additional straps. “The deer need to have full range of motion, so we had to allow only manageable coverage,” he explained, adding, “The whole endeavor would be moot if the deer can’t run, jump or bend down to feed.”
According to widespread reports, federal sharpshooters, working with full backing of several local municipalities, plan to kill 2,000 to 3,000 deer by hunting them in the dark of night using high-powered rifles, bait and even nets to ensnare and then kill the animals with handguns at point blank range.
“It’s barbaric,” Febrele said. “These deer are not mindless insects or fish—they are large mammals with intelligence and feelings,” he continued. “I have a family of deer that visits my land almost daily. They interact with me and my dogs, and when one dies, we feel that loss. Killing thousands is an unfathomable genocide, and I plan to outfit as many as possible with these vests.”
So far, Febrele has produced 125 DeerVests, but he said recent support from several wealthy donors, including at least one celebrity animal advocate (who asked to remain nameless), will make it possible to make about 1,000 more. “It’s not quite up to the proposed kill numbers, but we’re gaining traction,” Febrele explained. “Of course the real difficulty will be getting the DeerVests onto the deer. We have a large group of volunteers, but it may come down to tranquing [tranquilizing] them, and not everyone is comfortable with that.”
Applying the DeerVests will be challenging, but Febrele said his biggest hurdle now is time. “We have to make a lot of vests and get them on the deer before the culling starts,” he said. “Once the sharpshooters are out there, things will become much more difficult than they already are.”
Once the DeerVests are finished, Febrele said they’ll need to be painted, which is another point of contention among his team members. “Hunters wear orange so they don’t get shot, so orange may confuse the sharpshooters and buy our deer time to bolt—it would also make them more visible to oncoming cars on the road,” he said, “but we’re leaning toward camouflage, so the deer are even more difficult to spot.”
Febrele is also considering ways to help stop the spread of tick-borne diseases by adding insecticide to the lining of each vest, but he said getting the units done on time is priority number one. “We are literally working day and night to make this happen,” the advocate said. “We will not be deterred.”