New York Outdoor News Cuffs & Collars – Dec. 15, 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.)
Cub Scouts score fishing merit badge (Schuyler County)
On Aug. 12, ECO Josh Crain participated in a fishing event with Cub Scouts from Penn Yan who were obtaining their fishing merit badges. The event was well attended, with the excited scouts collectively catching more than 100 bluegill and bass with their families. After the event, Crain spoke to the scouts about the duties of an ECO, fishing regulations, and the importance of fish, wildlife, and environmental conservation laws.
Sharks in the basement
On Aug. 23, ECOs executed a search warrant at a residence in Lagrangeville suspected of harboring illegal wildlife. ENCON Police were joined by DEC marine resources personnel and staff from Wildlife Conservation Society’s (WCS) New York Aquarium and the Long Island Aquarium. Seven live sandbar sharks were seized, along with two dead leopard sharks and one dead hammerhead shark. The live sharks were kept in a 15-foot, above-ground pool in the basement. WCS staff and Long Island/Riverhead staff caught the sharks with ease, took blood, measured length, tagged them, and transferred them to Riverhead’s box truck, which is outfitted with plastic tanks, oxygen, and climate control. A WCS veterinarian assessed their condition. The sharks were taken to the Long Island Aquarium in Riverhead for holding until the case is closed. The incident is under investigation.
Something fishy at the pier
On Aug. 24, ECO Melissa Burgess was patrolling Piermont Pier when she heard the thumping of live fish from inside a plastic cooler. A group of four people was standing nearby, and Burgess asked the fisherman in the group how the fishing was going. He quickly replied that he had caught nothing. When questioned if he had his marine registry, the subject produced a New Jersey fishing license. A female with the group opened the cooler for Burgess, revealing a swarm of fish, consisting of one channel catfish and 14 white perch. All but six white perch were safely returned to the water. The subject was issued an appearance ticket for the illegal possession of fish returnable to Piermont Village Court.
Finding the truth
On Aug. 24, ECO Kyle Bevis received a complaint of a family keeping undersized blue claw crabs in the village of Babylon. Bevis quickly located a subject matching the description in the complaint, but an initial check revealed the subject was only in possession of two blue claw crabs in his cooler. The subject was informed of the regulations and acknowledged he only keeps legal-sized crabs. Bevis left the area and returned to the parking lot and parked out of sight of the subject. Bevis watched the man for almost an hour and noticed that on two occasions the subject was bending over near a wooden piling by the water and seemed to be taking newly caught crabs from his cooler and placing them in a container in the water. A second check of the subject revealed that he was indeed catching crabs and then placing them in a pot for storage out of sight. An inventory of the crabs revealed he was in possession of 29 undersized blue claw crabs. The crabs were seized and returned to the water. The subject was issued a summons returnable to Suffolk County 1st District Court.
Oil tanker runs aground
On Aug. 25, ECO Waldemar Auguscinski and ECO Jarrod Lomozik were dispatched to perform a scene assessment for an oil tanker that had left the channel exiting New York Harbor and run aground. When the ECOs arrived on scene, they found that the U.S. Coast Guard and several tugboats had responded, as well. The ECOs took air samples for volatile organic compounds, used thermal imaging equipment and performed visual scans around the vessel. The ECOs observed no indication of a petroleum release. The tanker was freed with the incoming high tide and moored in the Lower Bay of New York Harbor.
On Aug. 27, ECOs Andrew Kostuk and Maxwell Nicols were contacted by an Orange County parks staff member regarding a mystery on the shore of the Hudson River. The ECOs responded to find a dead sturgeon washed ashore on the beach of Plum Point. This prehistoric-looking fish was collected and held overnight to be turned over to the DEC’s Hudson River Fisheries Unit for further study.
On Aug. 27, ECOs J.T. Rich and Michael Hameline were on patrol when they received a report of individuals taking shellfish near the North Channel Bridge in Queens. The ECOs responded and located two individuals digging clams from the shoreline during low tide. The FDA closely monitors the water quality of areas where clams are harvested to certify the clams will be safe to eat. Due to water quality concerns surrounding New York City, the taking of shellfish is prohibited. Both individuals were ticketed for taking shellfish from uncertified waters. The tickets were returnable to Queens County Court.
A good first day
On Aug. 28, ECOs Bob Hodor and Kevin Wamsley assisted ECO Deo Read on an illegal construction and demolition (C&D) debris dumping case in the town of Hyde Park. It was Wamsley’s first day in the field, having just graduated from the 21st Basic Academy on Aug. 25. The ECOs were conducting surveillance in the dark at around 4:15 a.m., when they spotted two trucks driving to a local gun club. The ECOs witnessed non-exempt materials and dirty fill dumped on the property. A total of seven summons were issued before 7 a.m., the first tickets written by a recent graduate.
On Aug. 28, Sullivan County 911 contacted DEC ECOs requesting assistance for a domestic dispute involving a handgun during which the suspect fled into the woods in Lumberland. On his first day working in the field after completing the 28-week ECO police academy, ECO Corey Hornicek was riding along with ECO Tom Koepf when the ECOs received the call. ECO Travis McNamara was already working with state police and their K-9 unit clearing a section of woods. Koepf and Hornicek interviewed neighbors and passing vehicles. Special Operation Group members ECOs Chris Lattimer and Claude Stephens arrived at the scene, and a state police aviation unit helicopter was called into service. A radio transmission stated that the suspect was spotted less than a mile away, entering a wooded area at the end of a dead-end road. ECOs and state troopers rushed to join a Lumberland constable at the site and the officers pushed into the woods. Lattimer spotted the suspect and gave a command to surrender. The suspect turned around and continued walking away until he noticed a line of officers closing in on him. The suspect was taken into custody by the state police and charged with second-degree burglary, two counts of criminal contempt and aggravated harassment.
A dirty scheme
In May 2017, a homeowner in the town of Kent responded to an ad on Craigslist for “free fill” and received several tons of non-exempt fill (C&D debris made to look like clean fill). After an investigation by ECO Anthony Drahms and DEC Materials Management, the fill was traced back to a nearby site, which received and processed C&D debris without a permit. On Aug. 28, ECOs Dustin Dainack, Anthony Drahms, and Chloe Swansen visited the site and issued two summonses for unlawful disposal of solid waste for the non-exempt fill dumped at the complainant’s property and for receiving, treating and processing C&D debris without a permit. All charges were pending Kent Town Court.
On Aug. 29, ECO Nate Doig interviewed a man about a monstrous pile of construction and demolition debris that had accumulated on his property in the town of Franklin. The landowner stated that he had accepted the material, which included treated lumber, insulation, mattresses, furniture, electronic devices, and a fiberglass boat, and planned to hold a festive bonfire over the Labor Day holiday weekend. Doig explained that accepting 100 cubic yards of material or more requires a solid waste permit from DEC, and that under no circumstances could the materials be burned. The officer, assisted by ECO George Wilber and John Weidman from DEC’s Division of Materials Management, conducted a thorough investigation, including tracking all of the dumped material back to the source. The landowner was charged with a Class A misdemeanor for illegal disposal of greater than 70 yards of solid waste and operating a solid waste management facility without a permit. The three individuals who contributed to the pile were area contractors and charged with the illegal disposal of solid waste.
A busy first week on the job
On Aug. 30, ECOs Tim Fay and Robert McCabe performed a routine regulatory check of a commercial seafood dealer in the town of Brookhaven. During the inspection, the ECOs checked fish, shellfish, crabs and lobster for proper documentation, tagging and size limits. While inspecting the contents of a walk-in freezer, McCabe discovered six striped bass of illegal size and three striped bass without commercial tags. The commercial slot size for striped bass is between 28 to 38 inches and all commercially sold striped bass are required to be tagged. The illegal fish were seized and the owner was issued tickets for the violations.
On Sept. 2, ECOs Kaitlin Grady and Robert Kaufherr were checking boats coming in to the Port Jefferson boat ramp. One shellfishing vessel had seven bags of oysters on board. The ECOs checked the first bag of oysters, which contained a large amount of undersized oysters. ECOs Kyle Bevis and Justanna Bohling arrived to help check an additional six bags, which all contained a high percentage of undersized oysters. The fishermen were issued tickets and the oysters were confiscated and returned to the water. Both McCabe and Kaufherr graduated from DEC’s 21st Basic Academy on Aug. 25.
Carnage on the water
On Aug. 31, ECOs from DEC’s Marine Enforcement Unit were patrolling Montauk Harbor when they spotted a vessel whose crew was throwing fish overboard. As they approached the party charter vessel, ECOs ordered the fishermen to stop. The orders were ignored in an attempt to avoid prosecution under Environmental Conservation Law. ECOs estimate that hundreds of pounds of illegal black sea bass, fluke and scup were dumped into the harbor. At the dock, ECOs inspected the fishermen as they left the boat. Eight tickets and 22 warnings for ECL violations were issued, including possession of undersized black sea bass, possession of undersized summer flounder, possession of over-the-limit black sea bass, possession of over-the-limit scup, failure to stop dumping upon command, and incomplete vessel trip report. Once the fishermen were off the boat, additional ECOs assisted in recovering as many fish from the water as possible. An inspection of the vessel resulted in the discovery of an additional 500 fish and 17 coolers that had been abandoned on the boat. The abandoned fish that could be saved were donated to a Long Island mission. The tickets were returnable to East Hampton Town Court.
Bald eagle rescue
On Sept. 1, ECO Peter Jackson was notified of an injured bald eagle in the town of Rodman. The complainant informed Jackson that the eagle had been seen feeding near a dear carcass along State Route 177 and was unable to fly. Jackson arrived in the area where the eagle was last seen and followed tracks to where it had entered the woods. After a few minutes of searching, he spotted the eagle hunkered down in some tall grass. The eagle attempted to evade the officer but was eventually caught and wrapped in a blanket. Jackson transported the injured eagle to a wildlife rehabilitator who cared for the raptor overnight. It was later transported to a specialist in Greene County for further care.