New York Outdoor News Cuffs & Collars – Jan. 12, 2018

(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.)

One-stop shopping
(Cayuga County)

On Sept. 8, ECO Mark Colesante spotted a Craigslist ad listing native snakes for sale in the city of Auburn. Initially, ECOs planned to arrange a purchase, but when officers learned the alleged salesman was only 16 years old they decided to simply interview the subject. The young man said he had not sold any of the 75 native snakes in his possession, including northern water snakes, eastern ribbon snakes, eastern garter snakes, and brown snakes. He also had 25 leopard frogs and three black bass in an aquarium. The subject was educated about the laws of wildlife possession and charged with possessing protected wildlife without a permit. The entire menagerie was released back to the wild.

A hawk’s lucky day
(Sullivan County)

On Sept. 13, ECOs Tom Koepf and Corey Hornicek received a call from an employee of the Livingston Manor Dollar General store in the town of Rockland stating he noticed a hawk stuck 40 feet up in a dead tree. The ECOs arrived and found the hawk. They spoke with Livingston Manor Fire Department firefighter Ryan Nead, who called his chief to receive permission to cut the tree down. Hornicek explained that if the firefighter could drop the dead tree into a small tree with lush vegetation next to it, it would cushion the fall and protect the hawk from injury. All went according to plan and the hawk survived the fall injury-free. The immature red-tailed hawk was caught in the dead tree because its leather leg straps, commonly used by falconers, were tangled around a branch. The ECOs untangled and carefully removed the bird. The ECOs brought the hawk to a local master falconer to care for it while they attempted to find the owner.

Lost and found
(Genesee County)

On Sept. 15, ECO Fay Fuerch was contacted by a Genesee County sheriff’s deputy concerning a convicted felon who accidentally shot himself in the leg the night before in the town of Darien. The deputy requested ECO Fuerch’s partner, K-9 Handley, to help locate a .22 caliber rifle that was missing. The victim initially explained that he was holding a .22 round with a pair of pliers and hit the primer end with a hammer, causing the round to discharge and enter his leg above his knee and exit near his ankle while he was in a garage on his grandfather’s property. This story did not make sense and the grandfather advised that there was a .22 rifle missing from an abandoned vehicle on the property. The victim asked for a lawyer when questioned about the rifle, so its location remained unknown. The grandfather was fully cooperative and gave consent to search the property, including the garage. A quick search of the garage didn’t locate the rifle and when K-9 Handley searched the woods and surrounding property, he didn’t locate the rifle. Fuerch returned the following day and took a closer look in the garage, locating the rifle hidden among pieces of rebar and other long, slender objects. The grandfather confirmed it was the missing rifle. All of the evidence was turned over to the sheriff’s department and charges were pending.

Unidentified shellfish/invasive plant
(Albany County)

On Sept. 17, ECOs Kimberly Garnsey and Taylor Della Rocco received a complaint from an individual stating that two people had been planting some type of plant in a local pond. ECOs Garnsey and Della Rocco went to the pond and took samples of the plants, which were identified as watercress (Nasturtium officinale), a fast-growing, aquatic species used most frequently in Asian dishes. The ECOs checked the closest Asian market and inquired where the market purchases watercress in an attempt to determine who had been planting the invasive plant. While at the market, the ECOs found approximately 200 shellfish without the appropriate shellfish tags. When the officers interviewed the manager, she stated, “We just throw the tags out.” The market was issued two tickets, one for possession of untagged shellfish and one for failure to retain tags as required by law. The shellfish were destroyed, as uncertified shellfish may present a serious health hazard to the public. Both charges were returnable to Colonie Town Court. ECOs continue to follow up with the invasive species issue at the pond.

Massive seizure of illegal fish
(Suffolk County)

On Sept. 16, ECOs Jeremy Eastwood, Ben Tabor, Katie Jakuab, and Brendan Dickson were on boat patrol when they observed the fishing charter vessel “Viking Starship” returning to the dock. The ECOs came ashore to conduct checks of the fishermen as they exited the boat. Of the 124 people aboard, dozens abandoned their coolers and buckets containing fish on the boat. However, the ECOs were able to identify and charge 23 defendants with a total of 26 violations for possession of over the limit of porgy and black sea bass violations. Nine coolers and 19 buckets were abandoned aboard the vessel, as well, and were seized by the ECOs. The captain of the vessel was also cited for an unsecured sanitation device. A total of 1,800 fish were seized and donated to the Bowery Mission in Manhattan and the Riverhead Senior Center.

Marijuana eradication
(Allegany and Cattaraugus counties)

From Sept. 13 to Sept. 22, DEC Division of Law Enforcement personnel participated in a multi-agency marijuana eradication detail focusing on locating and removing marijuana plants throughout Allegany and Cattaraugus counties. New York State Police, the Allegany County Sheriff’s Department, and the Southern Tier Drug Task Force participated in the effort, along with ECOs Jason Powers, Jamie Powers, Russell Calanni, Dustin Oliver, Sean Rockefeller, Max Woyton, Darci Dougherty, Chris Freeman, Michael Wozniak and Lt. Don Pleakis. The officers conducted work both on the ground and by air from a State Police helicopter and checked approximately 30 sites over the course of 10 days.

A lot of striped bass
(New York County)

On Sept. 17, ECO Adam Johnson observed four individuals fishing along the Harlem River. One subject caught two fish, while another immediately brought the fish roughly 75 yards down the shoreline to gut and clean them. With darkness approaching, Johnson approached the men and asked if they had any fish and one man replied, “No.” However, when Johnson checked the subjects’ cooler, he found two plastic bags containing multiple undersized striped bass. A total of 22 striped bass were taken by the four individuals, well beyond the daily limit of one striped bass per person. All of the striped bass were less than the required 28 inches in length, and all 22 carcasses had been mutilated, which is a separate violation for the highly regulated species. Twelve summons were issued between the four subjects for possessing undersize striped bass, possessing over the limit, and possessing mutilated striped bass returnable to New York County Court.

No child left behind
(Richmond County)

On Sept. 23, ECO Waldemar Auguscinski was patrolling the Upper New York Harbor shorelines of Richmond County when he observed four anglers trespassing on the shoreline in front of Von Briesen Park. The subjects had an inflatable boat and a toddler in a stroller. The anglers paddled away from shore and began fishing, leaving the 1-year-old girl behind on shore in the stroller. NYPD officers from 120th Precinct were called in and arrested the parents of the toddler who were among the four fishing from the boat for endangering the welfare of a child. The little girl was taken by EMS for evaluation and the parents were issued summonses for failure to carry marine registries and insufficient personal floatation devices.

Burning wood and couches
(Ulster County)

On Sept. 23, ECOs Jason Smith and Lucas Palmateer were working an evening shift when they spotted a large bonfire behind a residence in the town of Shawangunk. The officers were greeted by two male subjects who said they were burning “just wood.” As the ECOs walked closer to the fire, they noticed a couch engulfed in flames and more furniture behind the fire ready to be burned. The subjects admitted that they were just trying to get rid of old furniture, as well as burning old wood, which resulted in the resident of the property being issued a ticket for unlawful open burning of solid waste. The ticket is returnable to Shawangunk Town Court.

Injured bald eagle
(Orleans County)

On Sept. 19, ECO Kevin Holzle responded to a report of an injured immature bald eagle in a field in the town of Kendall. The concerned farmer had viewed the eagle the previous day feeding in the squash field and became concerned with the bird’s condition the next morning, when he was able to walk right up to it. Holzle arrived on scene and determined that the eagle needed medical attention. DEC wildlife staff arrived to assist in the capture and transport of the eagle to a licensed rehabilitator for treatment, recovery and future release.

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