New York Outdoor News Cuffs & Collars – March 24th, 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.)
On Dec. 15, ECOs Mary Grose, Zach Brown, John Gates and Jeff Krueger were performing federal joint enforcements in fish markets in Queens County. While inspecting Skyfoods Mart Inc. in Elmhurst, ECOs discovered undersized lobsters, untagged shellfish, and violations of the Returnable Container Act. A total of 73 undersized lobsters were seized and donated to the Bowery Mission in Manhattan. The volunteers at the Bowery Mission thanked the ECOs and said they would be used for the Christmas Eve meal for the homeless.
On Dec. 20, ECO Chuck Wilson responded to a complaint from a citizen who had been walking in Nature View Park on Tonawanda Creek Road in the town of Amherst. The ground was covered with snow and it appeared that a deer had been killed a few feet from the walking trail, dragged through some brush, and brought into the garage of a home bordering the park. Wilson found a broken hunting arrow frozen in the snow nearby and followed the trail to the neighboring property. Upon closer inspection, he found that the area was scattered with corn. A tagged doe deer head sat on top of a five-gallon bucket of deer entrails on a nearby table. The tag indicated that it had been killed in Ontario County on Nov. 19, but had not been reported through the state Game Harvest Report system. Wilson contacted ECO Mark Mazurkiewicz to assist in the investigation and they interviewed the owner of the adjoining property. He admitted to shooting a large 11-point buck on Dec. 17 with a bow and arrow. Wilson determined that the arrows in the homeowner’s quiver were identical to the broken arrow found in Nature View Park. The homeowner admitted to placing corn in his backyard to feed his chickens; the buck had been shot while feeding on the corn. The officers found the 11-point buck, which had not been tagged or processed, hanging in the garage. The homeowner was issued tickets for unlawful killing of a wild deer, hunting deer in an area closed to big-game hunting, hunting deer with aid of a pre-established bait pile, failure to follow mandatory tagging requirements, and failure to report a deer harvest as required. The tickets were returnable to Amherst Town Court. The buck was donated to the venison donation program.
Snowy owl rescue
On Dec. 20, ECOs Chris Freeman and Darci Dougherty were traveling along State Route 242 in the town of Napoli when they were flagged down by a local farmer. The farmer was frantically trying to keep an injured snowy owl from entering the busy road. Because the owl’s right wing was broken, it was unable to fly. After several attempts, Freeman was able to capture the distressed owl by covering it with his jacket. The ECOs made arrangements for the owl to be picked up by a licensed wildlife rehabilitator. The owl has since undergone surgery on its broken wing and was recovering in the rehabilitator’s care.
Christmas gifts for families in need
(St. Lawrence County)
On Dec. 23, ECO Steve Sherry participated in a program that provides food and gifts to families in need for the Christmas holiday. The program was developed by Mary Ellen Mace from the Brier Hill Fire Department in the town of Morristown. Mace worked with the Morristown Central School District and developed a list of children and families likely to have little or no food or gifts on Christmas Day. Sherry assisted with putting together the gift and food baskets and helped deliver them to the families in need. Other agencies involved in the effort included the New York State Police, the St. Lawrence County Sheriff’s Department, the Brier Hill Fire Department, and the Morristown Fire Department. At least 62 children from 27 local families received donations from the program.
Illegal clams seized
On Dec. 23, Region 3 ECOs Melissa Burgess and Max Nicols conducted a seafood market compliance check at the Restaurant Depot store in Blauvelt. Bags of littleneck clams immediately caught the ECOs’ attention. After checking the first three bags and finding a high percentage of “seed,” or undersized, clams, they requested help from additional ECOs to measure the numerous cartloads of clams at the store. ECOs Bob Hodor and John Helmeyer joined the investigation, which resulted in the seizure of 59 bags of 100-count littleneck clams and 37 bags of 200-count littleneck clams. Approximately 13,300 clams were measured by the ECOs over the course of several hours. Additional Restaurant Depot stores were also inspected to determine if undersized clams are a statewide problem. A total of 301 bags of clams were seized from nine of the 10 Restaurant Depot locations across the state, with a total fair market value of approximately $12,500. The seizures included 64 bags in Region 2 (New York City) and 116 bags in Region 1 (Long Island).
Fuel oil spill
On April 4, ECO Jared Woodin was called by DEC Dispatch Center about a possible spill in the town of Harpersfield. Woodin arrived on scene where he observed approximately 2,000 gallons of fuel oil that had been spilled. DEC Spills, state police and the Delaware County Sheriff’s Department were also on scene. Due to the accident State Highway 23 was closed for a period of time in order to clean up the spill. The driver was issued multiple tickets from Delaware County sheriffs and ECO Woodin.
Too many rabbits
On Dec. 24, ECO Steve Gonyeau received a tip about a Facebook post showing two hunters with 22 rabbits taken in southern Washington County. The picture showed the tailgate of a pickup truck and rabbits stacked across the back of it. Through social media contacts, the two hunters were quickly identified and, with the assistance of ECO George LaPoint, they were located and interviewed. Both hunters stated it was an epic rabbit hunting day and that they didn’t realize there is a hunting limit on rabbits. The daily cottontail rabbit limit is six. Both hunters were issued tickets for taking over the limit of rabbits, returnable to the Easton Town Court.
Fulton Fish Market sweep
On Jan. 18 at approximately 1:30 a.m., Division of Law Enforcement members, along with staff from other national law enforcement agencies, conducted marine fishery checks of vendors at the Fulton Fish Market located in the South Bronx. The Fulton Fish Market is one of the largest consortiums of seafood wholesalers in the country, and the officers were checking both for state and federal compliance. The efforts of DEC and other marine fishery law enforcement agencies are designed to combat over-harvesting, disease and pollution that strain marine resources not only in New York but in other states as well. The inspections found significant violations with two seafood wholesalers with respect to fish, shellfish, crustaceans, permits and other required documentation. One of the wholesalers was issued a Notice of Violation for selling more than 300 pounds of undersized striped bass (37 fish total), and the other was issued a Notice of Violation for selling 27 undersized lobsters. The seized fish and lobsters were donated to the Bowery Mission in Manhattan.
Springing a trap on a serial dumper (Onondaga County)
During the first week of April of 2016, ECO Don Damrath and city of Syracuse police officer Carlos Romain managed to catch two of the culprits responsible for dumping tires, construction and demolition debris, and municipal solid waste at one of the many abandoned properties in the city. The two individuals were observed dumping the waste in broad daylight after eluding hidden cameras and local tipsters for months. Damrath and Romain arrested the men a short time later with another truckload of waste ready for disposal. After intense questioning the culprits admitted to their illegal activities and will face a city judge and thousands of dollars in fines and/or jail time.
Garbage fire threatens home
ECO Dave Thomas responded to a 911 call of a grass fire in the town of Orwell. The Orwell Fire Department was already on scene fighting the fire when Thomas arrived. A large swath of grassland was burning quickly in several directions. Thomas assisted in containing the blaze. Eventually all areas of the fire were extinguished and Thomas was able to investigate the cause. Not surprisingly, the culprit was a pile of household garbage and demolition material that was set ablaze by the homeowner. If it were not for the southerly wind that day, the home may have been lost. Two individuals in the home were treated by EMTs for breathing difficulties, but there were no serious injuries. The individual who started the garbage fire was charged with open burning of solid waste.
Open burn leads to brush fire
ECO Mark Colesante was dispatched to an open burn in the town of Throop. When he arrived, the Throop Fire Department had just finished putting out an open burn that had spread to a large area of the woods surrounding a fire pit. Colesante interviewed the alleged offender, who admitted to bringing home and burning C&D debris from a job he had just finished. During the interview, Colesante asked the suspect if he knew that he wasn’t allowed to burn C&D material regardless of the burn ban, and his response was interesting. He said, “I either pay you guys or I pay at the dump.” He went on to say, “It’s not about the money; it’s just a lot easier to burn it here than to take it to the dump.” Colesante issued the man a ticket for open burning and a ticket for unlawful disposal of solid waste.
On April 20, ECO Stan Winnick was contacted by the Lockwood Volunteer Fire Department regarding a garbage burn that had started the nearby woods on fire in the town of Barton. Winnick arrived on scene to find that several fire trucks and many volunteer firemen were on scene putting out the fire. Winnick spoke with the fire chief and he explained to the officer that the fire had started at the burn pit. Winnick then spoke with the homeowner regarding the fire. She told Winnick that the garbage in the fire pit must have spontaneously combusted! Winnick was at the residence in the fall of 2015 for illegal garbage burning in the same location on the property. Winnick did not believe the woman’s claim and issued her two tickets, one for open burn and one for illegal disposal of solid waste.
Dumping in Palmyra
In early April of 2016, ECO Kevin Thomas received a call from a state trooper regarding garbage bags on the side of the road. When he arrived, he noticed over 30 bags of trash in four locations. Thomas found some papers leading them to an address down the road in the town of Palmyra. The address turned out to be a pre-foreclosure property, and the locks had been changed. After an extensive investigation, and with the help of observant town workers, Thomas was able to identify and obtain a full confession from the culprit of the dumped garbage. The man was located and arraigned in front a Palmyra Town Justice and was released on his own recognizance. He faced $15,000 in fines and will likely be required to clean up the mess himself.
Earth Day commercial truck enforcement (Monroe County)
Last April 22 in commemoration of Earth Day, ECOs Richard Rauscher, Brian Shea and Eoin Snowdon, along with Richard Gage from the DEC’s the Division of Air Quality, and New York State Department of Transportation Investigator Silverstein conducted several roadside heavy duty diesel vehicle (HDDV) truck inspections. These inspections focus on air quality emission regulations, vehicle safety inspections, and the environmental impact of commercial vehicles on the roadway. During the detail officers inspected six trucks, identifying 23 violations, resulting in two trucks being placed out of service.
Jamison Bridge demolition
Last March, ECO Bob Peinkofer patrolled to the Jamison Road Bridge construction project in the town of Elma which was scheduled to begin two days prior. Peinkofer wanted to make sure the construction company had installed all required environmental protection measures. Upon his arrival, he noticed the bridge was completely gone and demolished. Further inspection proved the company decided to omit installing any environmental protection measures as required by their permit in order to protect Buffalo Creek. They allowed the entire bridge to fall directly into Buffalo Creek and had begun cleaning it out with massive excavators. The officer issued a cease and desist order until they installed all environmental prevention requirements listed in their permit. United Concrete spent the next two days installing all protection measures, was subsequently issued a consent order for violating their permit, and was set to pay a $5,000 civil penalty.
Illegal smelt fishing
Early on the morning of April 16, ECO Louis Gerrain was conducting surveillance for illegal smelt activity on West Brook in the village of Lake George. At approximately 8 a.m., Gerrain observed an individual exit his vehicle, retrieve a dip net from the bed and go down to the stream bank. Gerrain witnessed the man scoop approximately 50 smelt. The subject, a Lake George resident, was ticketed with taking smelt during the closed season, taking fish by means other than angling and fishing without a license.
Not catch and release
(St. Lawrence County)
The evening of April 20, ECO Ryan was conducting a fishing patrol along the Grasse River in the village of Massena. Ryan observed a man casting with a yellow lure, meaning he was likely targeting bass or walleye. As Ryan watched, the man hooked a large fish, reeled it in, struck it with a rock and put it on shore. As Ryan walked down the shore, the fisherman saw the ECO approach and began throwing fish into the river. Ryan counted seven fish being thrown in. The fisherman then tried to run back to his vehicle but was stopped. The fisherman was issued two tickets; one for bass out of season and one for walleye out of season.
Every year designated sections of the Susquehanna and Otselic rivers are closed to all fishing during the closed walleye season (March 16 to the first Saturday in May). These designated areas are closed to protect spawning walleye. Each year Broome County ECOs issue many tickets to individuals caught fishing in the closed areas, some that are targeting walleye and some that are not. April of 2016 was a very busy month for ECOs Andy McCormick, Eric Templeton, and Tony Rigoli. Combined, the three ECOs issued a total of 45 tickets to individuals caught fishing in the “closed waters.” The majority of these tickets were for fishing in the closed waters but also included fishing without a license and taking walleye during the closed season.
Too early turkey
Last April 25, ECO Aaron Markey received a call from a concerned hunter who stated he had been hunting with his son on the youth weekend when he observed a man in a truck pull up and shoot out the window at a turkey. The hunter had witnessed the license plate and stated he had witnessed the same truck in Oxford that morning. Markey quickly responded to Oxford and observed the described vehicle and the owner. After being questioned the poacher admitted to everything and was appropriately charged.