New York Outdoor News Cuffs and Collars — March 10, 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.)
No permits, no labels, big problem (Queens County)
On Dec. 1, ECOs Bradley Buffa, Zach Brown, Jason Hilliard, Chris Macropoulos, and Michael Hameline assisted a New York Police Department team from the 108th Precinct in a detail focusing on auto repair shops in Queens. Inspections showed that several shops failed to properly label waste oil containers. Two shops were found without the necessary permits to emit into the air from a spray booth. One shop was found with a sewer manhole directly under a vehicle lift where fluids were routinely drained into the sewer system. Through the course of the detail, five shops were visited and violations were found and issued in every shop.
On Dec. 3, ECOs Brian Gustitus, Evan McFee, JT Rich, and Jon Walraven conducted a series of checks on fish and shellfish markets in Brooklyn. The ECOs concentrated their efforts on shellfish storage and tagging. Throughout the day, they found numerous violations after visiting more than a half dozen storefronts and markets. The newly trained ECOs worked in pairs to visit locations before word spread that the checks were under way. By strategically planning to quickly enter the separate locations simultaneously, the ECOs were able to more effectively find violations that could otherwise be quickly covered up. In all, four summons were issued for untagged shellfish and illegal storage of shellfish in water without a permit. The illegal shellfish was seized and destroyed so they could not be sold after sitting in unsanitary conditions.
While on patrol on Dec. 4, ECO Andy Kostuk received a tip from Capt. Martin Townley and senior fisheries and wildlife Technician Tim McNamara that an illegal bear was being dropped off at a local butcher in the town of Walkill. Kostuk subsequently went to the butcher shop and seized the bear. Upon investigation, the ECO found that a New Jersey hunter from a private camp in Grahamsville had shot a mother bear that had been with two cubs. Tickets were issued to the hunter for taking a bear from a group of bears and illegally taking protected wildlife.
Hunting while intoxicated
On Dec. 4, ECO Joshua Wolgast responded to a call of a hunter stumbling down a road in the town of Henrietta. He arrived on scene and met with Monroe County sheriff’s deputies, who had also received a call. Two hunters were located, who explained that they were conducting a drive and had killed an antlerless deer. One of the subjects appeared extremely intoxicated and subsequently failed all field sobriety tests. He later submitted to a breath test and was found to be hunting with a blood alcohol content of .19 percent. He was charged with hunting while intoxicated, trespassing, and taking an illegal deer. The second individual was found to be in possession of marijuana. He was charged with taking an illegal deer, trespassing, unlawful possession of marijuana, failing to properly tag a deer, and failing to properly consign a deer tag. All charges are pending in Henrietta Town Court.
Way over the limit for waterfowl
On Dec. 7, while investigating a complaint of several deer carcasses being dumped in a local stream in the town of Clayton, ECOs Shea Mathis and Lt. Steven Bartoszewski found the suspect’s vehicle at a nearby boat launch. The officers waited for several hours for the suspect to return to the launch, and the long wait eventually paid off. The suspect and another individual were found to be in possession of 21 ducks – 18 mallards and three black ducks. Based on species limits, the hunters were over their total bag limit by 11 ducks and also over the daily limit on both mallard and black ducks. After being interviewed about the original complaint, the suspect who allegedly dumped the deer carcasses admitted to dumping them, as well, and was also found to have committed tagging violations related to the taking of the deer. The waterfowl were seized as evidence and tickets were issued for taking waterfowl over the daily bag limit, possessing the license or tags of another hunter, and failure to properly tag deer. The men removed the deer carcasses from the creek the following day.
ECOs conducted a multi-day investigation into illegal hunting activities on DEC-owned land in the Otis Pike Preserve along the Peconic River in Calverton. On Dec. 10, two ECOs approached hunters on foot with two additional ECOs approaching by kayak. The ECOs observed two hunters in front of a baited duck blind. Their licensed guide was observed hunting upstream of the blind but in an area where the birds’ flight patterns would have been influenced by the illegally placed bait.
ECOs then determined that the guide service had illegally posted DEC-owned property as the service’s leased land. In total, ECOs issued 10 violations to the men; three violations for duck hunting over a baited area; two violations for unauthorized posting of property; two violations for erecting a structure on state land; and single violations for operating an unregistered vessel, insufficient personal floatation devices, and failure to carry a hunting license.
Each violation carries a potential penalty of up to $250. The three individuals were due to answer to the charges in First District Court in Central Islip. Individuals who observe illegal environmental activities on Long Island are encouraged to call DEC’s Division of Law Enforcement at (631) 444-0250 on weekdays during business hours and the ECO Hotline (1-844-DEC-ECOS) at all other times. For more information on DEC programs and regulations, please visit: http://www.dec.ny.gov.
On Dec. 10, ECOs Ricky Wood, Matt Burdick, and Matt Baker checked a property in the town of Rockland where ECOs had found illegal bait for deer earlier in the season. The ECOs encountered two hunters with an untagged doe. One of the hunters stated that he had shot the deer a few hours earlier. The hunters insisted that they didn’t hunt over the bait and that they were not the type to break rules. The ECOs then asked to see the hunting stands and the location where the deer was taken. The individuals’ three stands at the top of a ridge all had pre-established bait nearby. Further down the trail, the ECOs discovered another treestand with a third hunter in it and fresh bait, the same type used earlier in the season at the other treestands. He also was missing a back tag. The deer was seized as evidence and a total of six tickets were issued to the three hunters for the illegal taking of deer, hunting with the aid of bait, failure to wear a back tag, and failure to tag deer as required. The three hunters were immediately taken before a judge in the town of Rockland, where each pleaded guilty and paid more than $1,500 in fines.
Too many bucks
On the night of Dec. 11, ECO Shea Mathis was on patrol in the town of Watertown when he passed a residence and noticed a set of antlers sticking out from behind a garage. Mathis pulled into the driveway to get a closer look and a man started closing the overhead garage door. However, Mathis was able to spot three deer before it closed. The homeowner insisted all of the deer were legally taken and tagged, but upon inspection Mathis found that two of the deer were untagged. He also found three additional sets of fresh antlers. The homeowner claimed responsibility for one of the bucks but insisted that the other three belonged to a friend. The following day Mathis interviewed the friend, who admitted to taking the three bucks without tagging them. The two men were issued a total of eight appearance tickets with charges, including the taking of big game in excess of the bag limit, illegally taking deer, failing to tag deer, and possessing a license or tags of another hunter.
(St. Lawrence County)
On Dec. 11, ECO Mike Sherry was patrolling Old Black Lake Road in the town of Macomb when he heard a 911 dispatch call stating that a man that had fallen through the ice at Rollaway Bay on Black Lake. Sherry was nearby and the first emergency responder to arrive on scene. He was able to put on his life jacket and throw a bag line out to the victim in the water. A local resident provided ropes and extension cords to assist Sherry. The Morristown Fire and Rescue arrived on scene a short time later and the rescuers pulled the man out of the water. The victim was taken to Claxton Hepburn Medical Center in Ogdensburg, where he was treated for hypothermia and released. The victim had been out with another individual ice fishing at the time of the incident on approximately two inches of ice. The local resident that assisted with the rescue stated that there had been no ice at all on the bay the day before. The ice conditions were unsafe at the time of the rescue and placed all of the rescue personnel in danger.
On Dec. 14, U.S. Coast Guard members aboard the Cutter Sailfish on patrol near Sandy Hook, N.J., attempted to board a vessel for a safety inspection. As they approached the vessel, the vessel operator lifted the anchor and started pulling away. The vessel was eventually stopped and a Coast Guard boarding team conducted an inspection. During a brief interview, the vessel operator was asked if he was in possession of any fish. He indicated that he didn’t have any fish onboard. Upon further inspection, he was found to be in possession of 13 tautog, most of which were undersize. The man was issued a citation for failing to heave and for providing false information to a federal officer. The boarding team then called ECOs, as the vessel was returning to a marina in Kings County. ECO Paul Pasciak responded to the marina, arriving just as the Coast Guard and the vessel approached the dock. Pasciak interviewed the vessel operator and found that he possessed a valid New York State Landing Permit. The evidence was documented and the man was issued two summonses, one for failing to fill out a vessel trip report and one for possession of undersize tautog. The fish were seized and donated to the Bowery Mission.
Tenant timber taker
On Dec. 14, ECO Gary Wilson was called to assist with a timber theft in the town of Batavia. The property owner, who lives in Arizona, had received a call from a neighbor reporting that people were logging on her rental property. A trooper from the New York State Police barracks in Batavia had responded and interviewed the tenant and the logger. Apparently, the tenant had contracted a logging firm to harvest the mature oak, maple and black cherry from the owner’s eight acres of land behind the rental house. The tenant went so far as to sign a contract with the logging firm stating that he was the owner of the property and timber and received a $3,100 payment for the timber. Twenty-six trees were felled, amounting to 75 logs destined for the sawmill, some of veneer grade. The tenant was charged with grand larceny by the state police and charged with taking/causing the illegal removal of timber by Wilson.
On Dec. 14, ECO Chris Lattimer was contacted by the Deerpark Police Department regarding six deer carcasses that had been dumped in a creek. Deerpark PD stated that there was no identifiable information found near the deer and they were unable to find any evidence leading to a suspect. With no leads, Deerpark PD then put out a request on its Facebook page asking for the public’s assistance with the case. Multiple credible tips came in to Facebook, the Deerpark PD, and to Lattimer regarding the incident, leading to a suspect. Lattimer was familiar with the suspect and went to his residence to interview him. The suspect denied any knowledge of the deer at first, but later admitted to dumping the deer instead of bringing them to the dump. He stated that five of the deer were shot by him and that the sixth was a road kill. Lattimer asked to see the suspect’s hunting license and tags for the deer he shot. The suspect was unable to provide any proof that he had legally shot the five deer. The hunter was issued appearance tickets for illegally taking protected wildlife (two counts), unlawful disposal of solid waste, taking over the limit of deer, four counts of failing to tag deer as required, three counts of failing to report taking a deer, and possessing the tags of another hunter. All of the tickets were returnable to Deerpark Town Court.
Video leads To arrest
On Jan. 20, ECO Shana Hutton received information that a subject had posted a video of himself on YouTube shooting an otter with a .22 rifle in a pond near North Lake in the town of Ohio. After securing the video, which showed a clear image of the subject shooting a swimming otter and retrieving the carcass, ECO Hutton and Investigator Mark Malone located and interviewed the suspect. He admitted to shooting the otter and selling it to a local fur buyer. ECO Hutton charged the suspect with illegally taking protected wildlife and illegally selling protected wildlife, both returnable to the Town of Ohio Court.
Bluegills and thin ice
On Jan. 22, ECO Gary Wilson was called to assist with an ice rescue response on Oatka Creek in the village of LeRoy. A passerby had noticed two ice fishing buckets adjacent to a large hole in the ice, but saw no fishermen in the area. Although this wide section of creek is a popular ice fishing destination, safety-minded fishermen had been avoiding the spot due to a prior week of temperatures exceeding 50 degrees. The ice on this day extended out only 30 feet from the shoreline. LeRoy, Stafford, and Batavia fire departments responded to provide the necessary equipment and personnel. An exhaustive search was performed without any sign of the fishermen. Ultimately, police determined that two teenagers had been fishing there earlier in the day. Despite their parents discouraging them from an ice fishing expedition due to obvious poor ice conditions, the duo wanted to catch some bluegills. After successfully catching a dozen or so, the ice gave way beneath them. They both managed to get themselves out, but were unable to retrieve all of their equipment. Wet and cold, they left the area without notifying anyone.
A tip pays off
On the afternoon of Jan. 26, ECO Melissa Burgess received a tip that a man was illegally catching striped bass at the Haverstraw Marina in the town of Haverstraw and placing them in the trunk of his car. Just minutes from the marina, ECO Burgess quickly located the subject and the vehicle matching the description. As darkness set in, the suspect returned to his car, where ECO Burgess interviewed him. He initially claimed that he had no luck fishing that evening. He was unable to produce a fishing license and had a questionable driving record. He later admitted to catching fish and turned over a large striped bass that was hidden in the spare tire compartment of his car. ECO Burgess explained that possession of a species during the closed season is illegal and the suspect was issued an appearance ticket returnable to Haverstraw Town Court.
ECO receives conservation award
On Jan. 28, the annual banquet of the Federation of Dutchess County Fish and Game Clubs was held at the Villa Borghese in Wappingers Falls. At the banquet, Lt. David Clayton was presented with the President’s Award for his “commitment to protection of the state’s natural resources and the environment and for his vigorous enforcement of the state’s Environmental Conservation Laws.” Lt. Clayton is the first ECO to receive this award from the Federation since its inception 85 years ago.
Early on the morning of Dec. 23, ECOs Chris Macropoulos, Lucas Palmateer, Adam Johnson, Waldemar Auguscinski, and Jeffrey Krueger conducted inspections of seafood markets at the Fulton Fish Market in the Bronx. One facility was found to be in possession of 12 striped bass measuring less than the legal commercial slot size limit of 28 to 38 inches. The owner of the company was issued a criminal summons for possession of undersized striped bass for sale, as well as a notice of violation. The 12 stripers were seized and donated to the Bowery Mission, where the fish were on the menu for Christmas dinner. The Bowery Mission serves hungry and needy individuals in New York City.