New York Outdoor News Cuffs and Collars — May 19, 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.)
(New York County)
On Feb. 12, ECO Spencer Noyes came across a Craigslist ad offering an albino reticulated python for sale in Manhattan. Reticulated pythons are classified as wild animals under New York State Environmental Conservation Law and individuals are required to have a special license to possess or sell the snakes. Reticulated pythons are the longest snakes in the world, growing to more than 20 feet in length, and they can be dangerous. Working with Lt. Michael Buckley, Noyes determined the seller did not have a license. Acting as an interested buyer, Noyes contacted the seller and after several phone conversations, the seller agreed on a price for the original snake plus a second animal. On Feb. 13, Noyes and ECO Bill Chomicki went in plainclothes to the seller’s residence in the Washington Heights section of Manhattan. Lt. Nate VerHague and ECOs Zach Brown and Jarrod Lomozik served as uniformed backup. When the seller came outside with both snakes, Noyes and Chomicki identified themselves as conservation officers and, after a brief conversation, the seller admitted to not having any DEC permits to possess the snakes. The snakes were seized as evidence and transported to the Animal Care Center of NYC, where they are being cared for and will eventually be sent to the Sean Casey Animal Rescue in Brooklyn, which specializes in the rescue and rehabilitation of reptiles. The seller was charged with possessing a wild animal without a permit and was due in New York County Court in May.
Clean water detail
(Suffolk & Nassau counties
On Feb. 13, three teams of ECOs visited health care facilities throughout Long Island, where they collected 660 pounds of expired medications during the third DEC Long Island Pharmaceutical Take-Back Day. At least 24 Nassau and Suffolk county health care facilities participated in the program. ECOs collect and responsibly destroy unused or expired prescription drugs. In the past, many of these facilities flushed the medications down the drain to dispose of them. Flushing pills can contaminate drinking water sources, and pharmaceuticals have been detected in New York state waterways. ECOs Alena Lawston and Jordan Doroski collected from eastern Suffolk facilities. Lt. Tom Gadomski and ECO Kaitlin Grady collected from western Suffolk facilities. ECOs Tim Fay and Chris DeRose collected from the Nassau facilities. After completing their stops, the three teams met at Covanta, a waste disposal facility in Westbury, where the pharmaceuticals were destroyed by incineration.
Grandpa never lies
At 10:45 a.m. on Feb. 17, ECOs Jeff Hull and Ron Gross responded to a call of three men unloading snowmobiles and carrying rifles in the town of Rutland. The snowmobiles left the area prior to the ECOs arriving, but as Hull was following fresh snowmobile tracks nearby, he came across a pickup truck parked on the shoulder of the road with the doors open and two men standing outside. The two men explained that they were coyote hunting, which was evident by the dogs in the truck, their handheld radios, and hunting clothes. ECO Hull observed a loaded rifle on the front seat of the truck and a gray fox carcass in the bed of the truck. One subject claimed his grandfather gave him the fox carcass the prior day, but then changed his story once he realized that fox season was closed, claiming that he had been in possession of the carcass for several days. ECO Gross had previously warned one of the subjects about possessing road-killed carcasses out of season, and a quick call was made to the grandfather, who happily stated he had found the fox on the side of the road the day before and given it to his grandson to sell. Hull issued a ticket for possession of a loaded firearm in a motor vehicle to one hunter and a ticket for possession of wildlife other than permitted to the second hunter.
On Feb. 17 at 3 a.m., ECOs Christopher Macropoulos and Waldemar Auguscinski were conducting surveillance from shore based on information from the New Jersey Department of Fish and Wildlife that vessels were illegally dredging for blue claw crabs in the Ambrose Channel area south of the Verrazano Bridge. Within an hour they spotted a vessel entering Richmond County waters that appeared to be dredging. The ECOs joined the U.S. Coast Guard to perform a joint boarding of the suspected vessel, while ECO Michael Hameline was called to maintain sight of the crabbing vessel and relay its position. With air temperatures in the teens and heavy seas, they approached the fishing vessel, which attempted to flee back to New Jersey waters once the captain realized he was being approached by law enforcement. The Coast Guard vessel quickly prevented the fishing vessel from leaving the area. Upon boarding the vessel, the ECOs and Coast Guard members found approximately seven bushels of blue claw crabs (583 crabs in total), along with 12 whelk on the vessel. The captain admitted to knowing that dredging for blue claw crabs is illegal. He was charged with the illegal commercialization of wildlife, taking blue claw crabs by dredge in Richmond County, and taking whelk commercially without a permit. He was also issued a notice of violation, giving him the option to settle with the DEC. The whelk were returned to the water and the crabs were donated to the NYC Rescue Mission.
ATV in a trout stream
On Feb. 27, ECO Shea Mathis was dispatched to a complaint regarding ATV operators riding their machines in Four Mile Creek in the town of Webster. The complainant stated that she frequently observed ATVs in the creek and had been told by one of the operators that they weren’t breaking the law. Four Mile Creek is a protected trout stream, and Mathis arrived just as the subjects were passing through the creek bed. Mathis issued tickets for disturbing the bed of a protected trout stream and operating an ATV without wearing a helmet.
Mining permit violation
On Feb. 21, ECO Katie Jakaub responded to a complaint regarding a possible illegal discharge of storm water from a mining operation in Southampton. Jakaub accessed the site from the rear of the property where it borders town-owned land and nature trails. She found a dried pool in a wooded area where sediment-laden water had been recently discharged. Further investigation showed that the nearby mining operation had pumped excess stormwater up the bank of the mine and off-site onto the adjacent property. She interviewed the mine owner, who admitted he had been pumping the storm water to accommodate recent heavy rain and snow melt, a direct violation of the site’s mining permit. With help from DEC’s Division of Mineral Resources, a remediation plan was set in place and efforts to resolve the issue began immediately.
On Feb. 23, ECOs Wes Leubner and Zach Crain assisted with a joint commercial vehicle enforcement detail coordinated by the MTA Police, Mount Vernon Police, and the New York State Department of Transportation’s Commercial Vehicle Inspection Unit. The detail included several patrol cars posted throughout the area to identify and escort potentially unsafe trucks to a checkpoint for further inspection. During the detail, more than 50 commercial vehicle violations were discovered, and five vehicles were taken out of service due to blatant safety issues. Multiple violations of environmental conservation law were observed, including diesel exhaust over the opacity limit – nearly twice the legal limit in one instance – and depositing of noisesome/unwholesome substances onto the roadway (a heavy duty vehicle leaking both engine oil and diesel fuel). All of the tickets issued were returnable to Mount Vernon Court.
On Feb. 23, ECO Melissa Burgess stopped by the Piermont Pier to check on fishing activity. While speaking with a group of fishermen, a second group of fishermen approached Burgess asking for assistance. One of the fishermen had an adult seagull wrapped up in his fishing line and had gently towed the bird into shore but didn’t know how to free the bird. Despite a few bites, Burgess was able to grab the bird and cut away the line wrapped several times around its body, releasing it unharmed.
Farm dump fire
On Feb. 23 at 6:30 p.m., ECO Matthew Krug was contacted about a large garbage fire in the town of Whitehall. The Whitehall Volunteer Fire Department was attempting to extinguish the fire but was having difficulty due to the fire’s location in a remote, snow-covered farm field. Krug responded to document the scene and collected evidence. Among the items in the fire were tires, mattresses and boxes of clothing. Fresh tractor tracks led several hundred yards through the snow to a nearby residence, where Krug located a man who admitted he had intentionally burned some cardboard, which then accidentally spread to the “farm dump.” The man said he had mistakenly thought the fire would not spread through the snow. Krug issued the man appearance tickets for the unlawful disposal of solid waste and unlawful open burning, returnable to Whitehall Town Court. The Whitehall Fire Department eventually extinguished the blaze.