New York Outdoor News Cuffs and Collars — Jan. 27, 2017

(Editor’s note: A criminal charge is merely an allegation that a defendant has committed a violation of the criminal law, and it is not evidence of guilt. All defendants are presumed innocent and entitled to a fair trial, during which it will be the state of New York’s burden to prove guilt beyond a reasonable doubt.)

Box turtle seized
(Chemung County)

On Oct. 7, ECO John Lifrieri investigated an anonymous complaint regarding a live snapping turtle in the town of Southport. It is illegal to possess live wildlife without a permit, and snapping turtles were out of season in September if hunted. Lifrieri interviewed the suspect and quickly discovered he was keeping a turtle in the back of his pickup truck. It was also identified to be a box turtle, which is fully protected with no open hunting season. The subject said he only had it for a few days and was getting ready to return it to the boat launch on the Chemung River in Wellsburg. The subject was ticketed for unlawfully possessing protected wildlife. The ECO seized the turtle and contacted a wildlife rehabilitator. The licensed rehabber currently taking care of the turtle, observed that it was underweight and malnourished. The violator’s case was to be heard in Southport Town Court.

Zurich Bog search and rescue
(Wayne County)

While on patrol on Oct. 10, ECO Kevin Thomas heard a call over the radio that a hiker and two small children were lost in Zurich Bog in the town of Arcadia. Zurich Bog is a 600-acre sphagnum swamp in Wayne County that has been designated a National Natural Historic Landmark by the National Park Service. Thomas met New York state troopers and Wayne County sheriff’s deputies at the head of the trail into the bog and spoke with the hiker’s husband. Using her cellphone, the hiker said she had gotten lost more than two hours earlier, didn’t know where she was, and that her cellphone battery was running low. She also had her seven and 10-year-old sons with her, trying to help them earn a Cub Scout badge. Thomas had a trooper turn on his siren to see if the lost hiker could hear it, but she could not. A team of six officers then ventured into the bog, dividing into two teams when the trail split. A short time later, Thomas’ group heard a response from the lost hiker after calling out for her. Soon after, the officers found the family, tired but uninjured. They were escorted out of the bog through a marked trail.

‘Make sure it’s dead’
(Ulster County)

On Oct.11 at 11 p.m., ECO Joshua Sulkey received a call about a firearm being discharged in a residential area. The caller stated that the shot startled him and he could hear somebody say, “Make sure it’s dead.” Sulkey met Shandaken police on scene. A deceased black bear was found in the back yard. While interviewing the shooter, it was revealed that the bear was shot out of fear. The shooter stated that he had enough time to go from the side of the house to his vehicle to get his .30-30 rifle and then go to the back of the house and shoot the bear. Trash was strewn about in the backyard. Sulkey advised the shooter that he would continue to have a bear problem if he didn’t clean up the trash. Sulkey issued several tickets to the individual for shooting the bear illegally and for discharging a weapon within 500 feet of houses.

Scrap metal burn
(Wayne County)

On Oct. 10, ECO Kevin Thomas was driving down a backcountry road on patrol in the town of Rose and saw blue and black smoke coming from behind a trailer. When he investigated, Thomas found an individual standing over a burn barrel with numerous pieces of scrap metal laying around the barrel and in his pickup truck. Most of the metal pieces were small engine starters with a copper interior. The man said he burned the machinery to obtain the copper and then planned to sell it back to the scrapyard. In all, more than 50 engine starters were discovered, allegedly violating open burning laws. Thomas issued the subject a ticket for an illegal open burn.

Striped bass detail
(Nassau and Suffolk counties)

On Friday, Oct. 14 and Saturday, Oct. 15, Region 1 ECOs conducted a Long Island striped bass detail under a full moon. The officers worked with members of the U.S. Coast Guard Station Fire Island on vessels and shore side. ECOs checked striped bass fishermen during this important lunar phase of the year, and the fishermen were out in full force as the striped bass had been running small of late. Besides the striped bass, other fishing violations were discovered, with many of the species being undersized fish used as striped bass bait. By the end of the two-night patrol, more than 36 tickets were issued for undersized porgy, blackfish, black sea bass, oyster toadfish, over-the-limit hickory shad, out-of-season fluke, lack of marine registries, lack of navigation lights, and lack of PFDs on board.

Gator selfies come back to bite
(Westchester County)

Over Columbus Day weekend, a Westchester County reptile exhibitor decided to do some creative fundraising and took one of his alligators to the Bear Mountain Overlook, a tourist attraction in the town of Cortlandt. He attracted a large crowd of onlookers and proceeded to charge the tourists $5 each to hold the leash of the gator for pictures. Skeptical witnesses called the state police, but the man and his gator left before the officers arrived. The case was ultimately turned over to ECO Dustin Dainack, who tracked the man down to a nearby warehouse, which held two alligators, multiple snakes, lizards and turtles. Dainack and  ECO Craig Tompkins inspected the warehouse on Oct. 11 and found that the animals were well cared for and that the defendant did, at one time, have a special permit to possess and exhibit the reptiles, but he had let all of his permits expire. Dainack issued a summons for the possession of wild animals without a permit and a warning for allowing public contact for the alligator stunt.

llegal 8-point
(Rockland County) 

On Nov. 2, ECO Matt Burdick responded to a landowner’s complaint of finding a gut pile on posted property in Chestnut Ridge. Burdick located a blood trail leading to an adjoining property. The tracks and drag marks led him to an occupied treestand with several piles of corn about 50 feet away from the stand and a gut pile about 100 feet from the stand. Burdick ordered the hunter out of the treestand. The man admitted that he had taken an 8-point buck earlier in the day. Burdick accompanied the hunter to his home and seized the illegally taken buck. Five appearance tickets were issued to the hunter for illegal taking of big game, hunting deer over bait, trespassing, failing to wear a back tag, and failing to tag deer as required. The charges were pending in Ramapo Town Court.

Joint checkpoint
(Franklin and St. Lawrence counties)

On Oct.16, ECOs from Region 5 and 6 and New York state troopers conducted a joint checkpoint on Route 3 at the county line. The focus of the checkpoint was to identify hunting and deer violations. A large number of hunters were checked, and three loaded firearms in motor vehicles were discovered. Several deer were checked and found to be in compliance with tagging requirements. In addition to the firearms violations, Penal Law, Public Health Law, and ABC Law violations were also discovered. State police made several arrests for violations, ranging from criminal possession of a controlled substance to unlawful possession of marijuana, possession of alcohol by persons under 21, and possession of a controlled substance not in its original container.

ECO union donates to Hunt of a Lifetime Foundation

The New York Conservation Officers Association (NYCOA) recently sent a $17,000 check to the Hunt of a Lifetime Foundation, a nonprofit organization that grants hunting and fishing dreams for children 21 and under who have been diagnosed with life-threatening illnesses. This is the fifth consecutive year NYCOA has donated to the organization, with proceeds totaling more than $87,000 during that time. The money for this donation was raised at the annual NYCOA Hunt of a Lifetime Golf Tournament, held on July 9 at the Byrnecliff Resort in Varysburg, Wyoming County. The event is organized by ECOs Robert Peinkofer, Jim Hunt, and Don Damrath, with support from countless ECOs, DEC staff, and their families. More than 50 sponsors contributed to the event, including Cabela’s, Genesee Beer and JOH Marketing.

NYCOA was formed in 1986, and is a not-for-profit organization dedicated to the protection and wise use of our wildlife and natural resources. The membership of the Association consists of active and retired New York State ECOs and Investigators, and members of the general public. For more information, visit: The NY Conservation Officers Association website and The Hunt of a Lifetime website

Air quality violation
(Kings County)

On Nov. 4, ECOs Brian Gustitus, Paul Pasciak, and Kimberly Garnsey were on patrol in Kings County when they observed a heavy-duty diesel vehicle emitting thick black smoke from its exhaust stack. The ECOs stopped the truck and conducted a smoke test, which indicated that the truck’s average opacity rating was 85 percent, well above the legal limit for emissions. Upon further inspection of the vehicle, the ECOs found the vehicle had an expired HDDV emission inspection and was leaking diesel fuel and engine oil. Three citations were issued to the company that owns the vehicle; the driver stated that the issues would be addressed.

Two deer, no license
(Orange County) 

On Nov. 6, Lt. Mike Bello received a call reporting a hunter taking multiple bucks without a hunting license in the town of Hamptonburgh. Bello, along with ECOs Andrew Kostuk and Chris Lattimer, patrolled the property where the illegal deer was allegedly stored. The ECOs arrived at the residence to find that the hunter was still in the process of butchering an untagged 6-point buck in his shed. The hunter admitted that he had shot the deer that morning in his backyard with his bow and that he did not have a valid hunting license. The hunter also admitted that he shot another 4-point buck approximately two weeks earlier and had it in his freezer. The defendant was issued multiple appearance tickets for illegally taking protected wildlife, taking big game in excess of the legal bag limit, and hunting big game without a license. All of the tickets were returnable to the Hamptonburgh Town Court.

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