(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 May 9, ECOs Waldemar Auguscinski, Zach Brown, and Evan McFee were on boat patrol in Jamaica Bay, performing fishing and boating safety checks, when they asked the occupant of one boat if he had any fish on board. He replied that he had “about six blues,” or bluefish. Brown boarded the vessel to inspect the catch and check for required safety equipment. The ECO discovered an out-of-season summer flounder, also known as fluke, mixed in with a half-dozen legal bluefish. The ECOs released the live fluke back to the water and the fisherman was issued a summons returnable to Queens County Court for the violation.
On May 13, ECO Shea Mathis responded to a “shots fired” complaint near the Sampson Veterans Memorial Cemetery in the town of Romulus. Witnesses believed someone had shot a turkey from a white pickup truck and fled the area. Mathis, with the help of a state trooper, quickly located and stopped the vehicle. One of the three hunters in the vehicle admitted to shooting the turkey on posted property without permission and failing to have his hunting license or turkey tags in his possession. In addition, the driver of the truck admitted to hunting turkeys earlier in the day without a valid turkey permit. The two were issued a total of five tickets for charges, including trespass on posted property, failure to tag a turkey, failure to carry a license while hunting, and hunting turkeys without a permit. The mature tom turkey that had been shot in the original complaint was seized as evidence.
When two trucks collide
On May 14, ECOs Melissa Burgess and Kimberly Garnsey responded to a tractor trailer accident and fuel spill on I-87 southbound north of the Harriman Exit in Woodbury. State troopers at the scene advised the ECOs that the truck’s driver had fallen asleep at the wheel, hit another truck, crossed into the right lane, skimmed a concrete barrier, hit a thruway sign, and narrowly missed colliding with a large boulder before coming to rest in the bushes off the road. The driver was not seriously injured. One fuel tank had been ripped off, leaking diesel fuel onto the ground. Burgess and Garnsey assessed the small quantity of diesel fuel that had been spilled and determined that it was isolated to the truck’s immediate vicinity. No fuel had entered the neighboring wetland. No ECL violations were found, although traffic violations were pending with state police.
Short and out of season fish
During a May 14 patrol of Swinging Bridge Reservoir in Bethel, ECOs Tom Koepf and Travis McNamara encountered a variety of illegal fishing activity. During their patrol, the two officers observed three men who appeared to be cleaning fish on the banks of the reservoir. The men had been camping on the shore of the reservoir for three days and were in possession of several garbage bags full of fish. The majority of the fish were carp, but the ECOs also found four smallmouth bass and one undersized walleye. As bass season was still closed, five tickets were issued to the three men for taking fish during the closed season, taking undersized fish, and fishing without a license, all returnable to the Bethel Town Court. Verbal warnings were also given for camping on posted property.
Truck in a river
On the evening of May 10, ECO Fay Fuerch was contacted by the Lewis County Sheriff’s Department for assistance with a vehicle in the Black River. State police were at the scene of an accident in which a vehicle struck a tree, traveled down an embankment, and slipped into the river. The owner escaped through a window just before the vehicle sank. He was subsequently arrested for driving while intoxicated. Due to high water levels and unsafe conditions, Fuerch delayed the recovery of the vehicle until water conditions improved for divers to work safely. She coordinated with a local dive team and towing company to recover the vehicle and advised the owner of the plan. The owner decided to attempt to recover the vehicle with his friends’ assistance. On the evening of May 14, Fuerch was contacted by the Lewis County sheriff’s office and was advised that the owner was on scene attempting to recover the vehicle. The operator had asked a nearby farmer to use his tractor to assist with the removal, but the farmer declined and called the sheriff. Upon Fuerch’s arrival, she found the vehicle pulled halfway up the embankment, but the owner had left the scene. A towing company was contacted to finish the removal of the vehicle and the owner was charged with disposing of a substance injurious to fish and wildlife in water and disturbing the bed and banks of a protected stream. The tickets were returnable to Lowville Town Court.
I FISH NY event
On May 11, third and fourth grade students from P.S. 41 Elementary School participated in an I Fish NY event at Van Cortland Park in the Bronx. ECO Charles Eyler joined Melissa Cohen and staff from DEC’s Region 2 office to introduce the students to the joys of fishing. A perfect day of hungry fish and worms on hooks enticed some large sunfish and largemouth bass to bite. The excitement and smiles on the children’s faces showed that the exposure to nature and encouragement from DEC staff, parents, and teachers helped to foster an appreciation for wildlife and conservation.
Duck family relocation
On May 15, ECO Don Damrath responded to a call reporting a family of ducklings stuck in a storm drain at the corner of Harrison and Townsend streets in the city of Syracuse. Damrath arrived at the scene within minutes, and with the help of a resident Good Samaritan, Syracuse police officers, and workers from the Syracuse Department of Public Works, they rescued 12 ducklings and their mother from the storm drain. Damrath placed all of the animals in one transport container. He then traveled to Onondaga Lake Park and safely released the mother and her ducklings.
During the week of May 15, ECO Jerry Kinney received several complaints of wildlife in need of assistance in Chautauqua County. One call came from the town of Carroll reporting an injured duck. However, Kinney found that the duck was actually a newly hatched and motherless duckling. The duckling was kept in a warm environment overnight until it could be transported to a wildlife rehabilitator the following day. The second call was from the town of Pomfret. The caller stated that a fawn had come out of a ditch next to State Route 20 and proceeded to lay down in the middle of the roadway. A Good Samaritan removed the fawn from the roadway and took it home. A neighbor called Kinney to explain what happened and the officer arrived at the residence a short time later to take possession of the fawn, which he transported to a rehabilitator that specializes in deer
Replacing an eagle’s nest
On May 19, a day after thunderstorms with damaging winds passed through the town of Preble, ECO Tom Fernandes responded to a call of a bald eagle’s nest on the ground. Expecting to recover carcasses due to the 60-foot fall, Fernandes was surprised to find two unscathed eaglets very much alive. He contacted Bonnie Parton from the Division of Wildlife and together the two devised a plan to attach a large wicker basket as high as possible in the nesting tree to serve as a replacement nest. DEC’s Division of Operations brought a long ladder and helped secure the basket in the tree. The eaglets were banded and placed in the basket to await the return of the adult eagle
The “Bucket Head” bear
On April 24, ECO Andrew McCormick received a call from a concerned citizen in Kirkwood who said she had a black bear in her yard with a bucket stuck on its head. More calls came in that day from people claiming to have seen the same bear. McCormick contacted wildlife biologist Courtney LaMere, who suggested a bear trap be brought to the area to catch the bear. DEC staff placed two bear traps in the area, and over the next three weeks, three different bears were captured, but none turned out to be the “Bucket Head” bear. Calls continued to come in reporting sightings of the bear in the area. ECOs and DEC wildlife staff continued the search over the next several weeks. On May 19, a resident contacted the DEC Kirkwood office and said the “Bucket Head” bear was in their backyard. McCormick and wildlife biologists immediately responded to the location, but by the time they arrived the bear was gone. Over the next six hours they tracked the bear and located it in a backyard on Haskins Road. The bear was successfully tranquilized and the plastic food container was removed. The bucket turned out to be a clear container used to hold bulk pretzels or cheese puffs. McCormick and staff carried the bear out of the woods and placed it in a trap to recover overnight. The following morning, McCormick and Bureau of Wildlife employees successfully released the bear. The bear made a full recovery and shot out of the trap like a cannonball, seemingly no worse for wear.
Caught on camera
On the morning of May 20, ECO Matthew Baker received a 911 call about trespassing in the town of Cohocton. Baker responded and spoke with the complainant about turkey hunters trespassing on posted land. The complainant said his friend had been turkey hunting and saw two other individuals hunting turkeys on the property. The trespassers shot at a turkey close to where the friend was hunting and when the trespassers realized they were caught on camera, they took off running and left their car in the woods. Baker, with help from state police, tracked down the owner of the car. Upon being interviewed, both individuals admitted to trespassing and shooting at a turkey. ECO Shawn Dussault and K-9 Ski were called in to assist with locating evidence and successfully detected the wad cup near where the shot was taken. Tickets were issued for attempted illegal take of turkey and trespassing on posted property.
A donation for the dogs
On May 21, Robert Ahlers presented DEC K-9 Unit Tech Sgt. Keith Isles, K-9 Shamey, ECO Vernon Bauer, and K-9 Woods with 10 oxygen masks at the Northeast Outdoor Sports Show at the Dutchess County Fairgrounds. The officers were at the sports show for a K-9 Unit demonstration. The mask sets are typically given to fire departments for use on animals involved in a fire. The masks were given to the DEC K-9 Unit in case one of the service dogs is hurt or overcome by fumes and needs to have oxygen administered to them. Ahlers came up with the idea to donate these masks when choosing community service requirements for his annual Boy Scout project. Ahlers uses bottle return money to buy the masks and donates them to local police and emergency responders. Ahlers also recently donated masks to local Orange and Ulster County fire departments and a city of Newburgh K-9 Unit. Robert started this project as part of his Boy Scout rank advancement project.
On May 21, ECOs Jeff Hovey and Lt. Mike Phelps assisted the Bureau of Wildlife with tranquilizing and relocating a bear that was causing a nuisance at a residence outside of Saranac Lake. The bear had broken into a garage several times over the past two years to raid the resident’s garbage cans. A culvert trap was set and the healthy bear was caught, transported to the Ray Brook DEC office, and tranquilized by wildlife personnel. The bear was then tagged and relocated to a remote part of the Adirondack Park. Hovey and Phelps are part of the Division of Law Enforcement’s Chemical Immobilization Team and are trained to tranquilize wildlife that present a danger to the public. They assist DEC’s Bureau of Wildlife and are available to respond to wildlife issues when the Bureau of Wildlife personnel are unavailable.