(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 June 5, ECO Kimberly Garnsey received a call from the New York State Police out of Middletown reporting a fawn on the side of the highway. A caller explained that the fawn had been there for two days beside its mother, who had been killed by a vehicle. Garnsey and ECO Melissa Burgess captured the fawn, which they determined to be only a few days old. The ECOs transported the fawn to Flannery Animal Hospital for medical treatment and then placed it with caregivers at the Orphaned Wildlife Center in Otisville.
The K-9 nose knows
On June 5, ECO Michael Unger and U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) Special Agent Curtis Knights were investigating the unlawful possession of an alligator and various exotic animals when a complaint regarding poaching of striped bass was received via Region 1 Dispatch. The complainant witnessed a fisherman catching striped bass in North Woodmere Park and putting the fish into the trunk of his car. The fisherman had already packed up and exited the park but a license plate provided an address. While en route, the officers spotted the fisherman’s vehicle and followed for a short period. A man and a woman exited the vehicle and entered a large apartment building in Far Rockaway. Unger requested assistance from ECO Christopher DeRose and K-9 Cramer. Once on scene, K-9 Cramer quickly confirmed the presence of striped bass in the vehicle. Unger and Knights interviewed the owner of the vehicle, who said he had two striped bass in his trunk. An inspection revealed five 40-inch striped bass. The fish were seized and the fisherman issued a summons for possession of striped bass over the daily recreational limit, returnable to Nassau First District Court.
Pet albino Burmese python
On June 9, ECO Lattimer was contacted by New Windsor Animal Control stating they received a complaint of an extremely large snake being kept as a pet. Lattimer visited the residence and spoke with the homeowner, who said he owned a pet albino Burmese python, currently in the backyard. Lattimer went with the homeowner around back and observed an approximately 20-foot long snake slithering down the back stairs into the basement. Lattimer then asked the owner if he possessed the necessary license for the snake; he did not. At this point, the owner asked if he could give the snake to a friend in New Jersey. Lattimer contacted NJ Fish & Wildlife and confirmed that no license is needed to possess a Burmese python in that state. The snake was photographed and transferred to New Jersey that day. The owner of the snake was issued a ticket for possessing a wild animal without a permit, returnable to New Windsor Town Court.
On June 9, ECO Adam Johnson got a call about two dead Atlantic sturgeon that washed ashore in Brooklyn. Atlantic sturgeon are a regulated and protected species. Johnson saw that one sturgeon was decomposing on the rocks and that the other was floating just offshore. After pulling one sturgeon to shore, Johnson began inspecting the carcasses for identification tags and possible cause of death. The head and tail of one of the carcasses had been removed in what could have been an attempt to make the species unidentifiable. No wildlife study identification tags were found on the sturgeon, so detailed photos were taken and sent to DEC fisheries staff to be used for further species research. With the assistance of employees from a nearby fish market, the sturgeon were properly disposed. All evidence collected at the scene will be used to help evaluate data about the species, and the investigation remains ongoing.
On June 10, while performing a shellfish detail in Queens, ECOs JT Rich and Lucas Palmateer noticed three women harvesting shellfish from the shore on the west side of the bay. It is illegal to harvest shellfish from New York City waters due to pollution, but occasionally people harvest shellfish with the intention of selling them to local restaurants and markets. This creates a potential health hazard for customers. The ECOs watched from approximately 300 yards away as the subjects continued to pick shellfish by hand out of the mud and place them in plastic bags. Rich and Palmateer observed several bags hidden behind rocks. A total of 18 bags containing approximately 600 oysters were seized by the ECOs. The oysters were returned to the water and the three subjects were issued summonses for taking shellfish from uncertified waters, returnable to Queens County Court.
Open burn of prohibited materials
On June 10, ECO Jeannette Bastedo was on patrol in Saugerties when she observed an open burn. Upon closer inspection, she found a smoldering pile of leaves, grass clippings, plastic materials, drywall and garbage. Bastedo issued a ticket for open burn of prohibited materials to the resident and the fire was extinguished. The ticket is returnable to Saugerties Town Court.
On June 1, ECO Melissa Burgess received a call regarding a black bear running loose in the village of Nyack. The Orangetown Police Department was seeking DEC assistance after its officers and local animal control officers confined the bear to a residential backyard, where it had climbed a tree. Burgess contacted DEC biologist Matt Merchant, a bear specialist, and his team, and they responded with bear relocation supplies and additional staff. DEC wildlife staff successfully tranquilized, captured and tagged the young bear before loading the animal into a trailer for relocation in the Catskills, where he can resume his life in the wild.
Illegal deer possession
On June 9, ECO Jerry Kinney received a complaint of an individual in possession of a white-tailed deer fawn in the city of Jamestown. Kinney visited the location and interviewed a subject at the residence. The officer discovered a fawn being kept on the second floor of the house. The resident stated he had been told he could keep the fawn for up to six weeks and then release it back into the wild. Unfortunately for the resident, this information is not accurate. Kinney took possession of the fawn and issued a ticket to the resident for illegal possession of protected wildlife. The fawn was found to be in good health and released back into the wild.
On June 10, ECOs Evan Laczi, Ike Bobseine and Lt. Sean Reilly attended a shark fishing tournament in Point Lookout. The officers checked fisherman coming in with mako and thresher sharks for federal permits. After the tournament ended, additional checks found undersized fluke and striped bass. ECOs issued several tickets, including failing to possess a marine registry, possessing undersized striped bass, and taking undersized fluke.
Facebook post leads to citations
On June 10, ECO Brad Buffa received information about an individual from Keeseville who had posted photos on his Facebook page indicating he had taken over the limit of turkeys during the May turkey hunting season. Photos on the subject’s Facebook page showed the individual with one turkey taken on opening day and two turkeys taken on Mother’s Day. The hunter posted a picture of himself with the two turkeys captioned: “Two birds with one stone, (well, shot).” Hunters are only allowed two turkeys during the spring season and cannot take more than one turkey per day. Buffa interviewed the individual who posted the photos. He admitted to taking all three turkeys, claiming he accidentally shot the two turkeys with one shot. In total, four tickets were issued for the hunting violations, including taking over the season limit and over the daily limit of turkeys. The tickets were to the Chesterfield Town Court.
On June 13, ECOs Tim Machnica and Josh Wolgast attended the Newfane Elementary School Environmental Fair. The officers gave 10 short presentations to approximately 200 third grade students. The 20-minute presentation included describing the job of an environmental conservation officer as well as an introduction to hunting, fishing and trapping regulations. Pelts from a variety of animals were exhibited, allowing the students an up-close examination of local wildlife. The students had a variety of questions and concerns that the officers discussed and answered throughout the presentations.
Dumping in the dark
On the evening of June 16, ECOs Jason Smith and Zach Brown received a tip about a boat leaving a marina on City Island. The complainant stated that this particular boat goes out at night and keeps anywhere from 10 to 15 striped bass. The ECOs patrolled the marina and waited for the boat in question to return. As the vessel approached the docks, the occupants spotted the ECOs and one of the subjects picked up a cooler and dumped what appeared to be five fish overboard. After repeated commands from the ECOs to stop, the occupants also threw three garbage bags into the water before coming in to dock. Unable to determine the fish species or contents of the garbage bags, the officers issued tickets for dumping upon orders to stop and littering in waters of the state.
Lake Ontario flooding
During the ongoing high water and flooding along Lake Ontario that began in May, ECOs have added boat patrols focused on identifying public safety concerns, investigating complaints, and helping support other agencies and municipalities. Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo announced ramped up efforts to enforce “no wake” zones along the Lake Ontario and St. Lawrence River shoreline. Multiple state agencies deployed additional resources to assist with local enforcement efforts, including a total of 20 watercraft and 42 law enforcement officers from the Department of Environmental Conservation, Office of Parks, Recreation and Historic Preservation, Division of Military and Naval Affairs, and New York State Police. As part of ongoing enforcement efforts, local municipalities may issue tickets carrying fines of up to $250 per infraction to recreational boaters violating the 5 mph speed limit within 600 feet of shore, which was announced by the governor in May. ECOs have investigated reports of raw sewage discharges and unpermitted work being conducted in regulated areas. They have also assisted in deploying emergency materials and equipment, such as construction of temporary dams and pumps. ECOs have also provided information and guidance to businesses and homeowners suffering from the record-setting high water levels. Monroe County is one of the most heavily impacted areas with ECO boat patrols concentrated in the town of Greece and city of Rochester. Staff from DEC’s bureaus of Habitat, Permits, Water, and Spills have also provided support.
On June 21, ECO Tim Fay received a call from a woman in the town of Ridge stating that she and her neighbors were concerned about a deer trapped in a nearby yard. She claimed the deer was young and unable to leave a neighbor’s fenced-in yard. The woman reported that it had been there for three days and was continually crying. ECOs Tim Fay, Kait Grady, and Chris Amato responded to the location. The young fawn was found under a large pine tree. ECOs Grady and Fay entered the yard and caught the fleeing fawn. The fawn was removed from the yard and moved to neighboring woods, where it bedded down to await the arrival of its mother.
21st Annual Mountainfest
On June 21, ECOs from Jefferson and Lewis counties assisted the Fort Drum Federal Police and the U.S. Army Military Police with the annual Mountainfest celebration. Mountainfest, named after the 10th Mountain Division Stationed at Fort Drum, is an all-day celebration during which Fort Drum opens its gates to the community and allows the public to visit the base to foster community relations. The event includes military equipment displays, a “Salute to the States” ceremony, and other interactive events. The day culminated with a concert by country music star Trace Adkins and a fireworks display. An estimated 18,000 people attended the event. ECOs patrolled the perimeter on ATVs and assisted with security. The Jefferson County Sheriff’s Department and New York State Police also assisted at the event.
On June 21, ECO John Lutz was dispatched to a reported injured falcon along Seth Green Drive in the city of Rochester. Upon arrival, ECO Lutz located a juvenile peregrine falcon, an endangered species in New York, hopping back and forth unable to fly and attempting to push its head through a chain link fence. ECO Lutz successfully captured the injured falcon and wrapped it in a blanket without causing further injury before transporting it to Eastridge Animal Hospital for evaluation. It was determined that the falcon had no broken bones, but had suffered soft tissue damage. DEC’s Division of Wildlife staff was to transfer of the falcon to a rehabilitator. A complete recovery and a return to the wild was anticipated.
Osprey chicks saved
On June 24, ECO Ike Bobseine responded to a call concerning distressed osprey chicks on a town beach in Southampton. Upon arriving, ECO Bobseine discovered the platform that the adult ospreys had chosen to nest on had broken off during the previous night’s windstorm. While nearly 80 percent grown and fully feathered, the chicks had not yet fledged and sat in the tidal marsh well below the high water mark. ECO Bobseine sustained repeated, low-altitude attacks by the two adult ospreys long enough to remove the young chicks from the marsh. The Southampton Town Bay Constabulary helped Bobseine place the chicks in the low branches of a nearby cedar tree. The following morning, ECO Katie Jakaub returned with ECO Bobseine and found the osprey chicks back on the ground. The ECOs constructed a temporary nesting platform in a nearby dead tree. The chicks were placed on the platform, where they were soon seen being tended to by their parents. The small crowd that had assembled applauded the officers for their efforts.