(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.)
Bear hunting over bait
On Sept. 22, ECOs Steve Shaw, Rob Higgins and Ryan Kelley investigated a possible illegal bear that was taken in the town of Day. ECOs questioned an individual claiming he had shot the bear in his yard because it was a nuisance. The ECOs located a shooting lane approximately 275 yards from the subject’s deck to some hanging steel targets. Below the targets, the ECOs located a pile of corn covered in blood and black hair. After the ECOs confronted the subject with the evidence, he admitted to shooting the bear over a bait pile. The individual was charged with illegally feeding bears, hunting bear with the aid of a pre-established bait pile, and taking an illegal bear. The bear skull, meat and gall bladder were seized as evidence and all of the charges are returnable to Day Town Court.
Marlborough Safety Day
On Oct. 14, ECO Claude Stephens participated in Marlborough Safety Day, an event that offers young people in the community the chance to interact with and learn about what local police and fire departments do in their daily routines. The town of Marlborough supplied a bouncy house, balloons, cotton candy and free food for everyone. Stephens brought an ATV and a display with animal pelts, deer antlers, endangered species pieces and various items he uses to perform his duties as an ECO. Stephens spoke to more than 200 children and adults, explained his job duties, and answered questions. He was joined by officers from Marlborough Police, New York State Police, Ulster County Sheriffs, New York City Department of Environmental Protection, and the Milton and Marlboro fire departments.
Illegal hunter nabbed
While on patrol on Oct. 16, ECO Jeff Hull heard a call over Herkimer County dispatch of a subject shooting from the road in the town of Webb. Within minutes, the chief of police for the Webb Police Department had detained a subject matching the description. The hunter denied shooting at a deer. However, once on scene, Hull located a dead 7-point buck and a strong blood trail. On the far side of the disturbed soil where the deer had been shot, the officer found a spent muzzleloader sabot. Using the hair, soil, sabot, entrance and exit wounds on the deer, Hull determined that the subject discharged his firearm from the woods on the nearby hill, not from the road. He was approximately 350 feet from a nearby house when he shot the deer. The hunter was issued two misdemeanor tickets, one for discharging within 500 feet of a dwelling, and one for taking protected wildlife except as permitted. The buck was seized as evidence.
Too much temptation
On the evening of Oct. 17, ECOs Steve Shaw and Ryan Kelley received a phone call from a concerned citizen in the town of Moreau stating that he had witnessed a man in a vehicle driving up and down a driveway and then heard a single gunshot. Shortly thereafter, the caller saw lights in a wooded area. All of the activity occurred approximately one hour past legal hunting hours. When the ECOs arrived to investigate the complaint, they located an antlerless deer hanging in a tree near the front door of a nearby residence. A man at the residence was questioned by ECOs about the specifics of the deer taking. He initially stated that he had shot the deer legally a few hours earlier behind his place of employment, but ultimately admitted to taking the deer on the property involved in the complaint. He stated that, “I didn’t even see a deer last season and the temptation was just too much for me. I couldn’t help myself even though I know what I did was wrong.” The man was charged with killing a deer except as permitted by the Fish and Wildlife Law, hunting during closed hours, hunting with the aid of a motor vehicle, and taking deer with the aid of an artificial light. The deer and gun were seized as evidence. All charges were pending in Moreau Town Court.
Deer decoy detail
On Oct. 20, the last day of the Northern Zone early muzzleloader hunting season, ECOs Scott Pierce, George LaPoint, recent Academy graduate Joshua Harvey, and Lt. Matt Clemens set up a deer decoy outside the village of Indian Lake. As the day was drawing to an end, LaPoint and Harvey watched as a slow-moving vehicle came down the road. The windows of the vehicle were open, and after spotting the decoy, the driver put the vehicle in reverse. A muzzleloader was seen poking out the front passenger window and the driver was observed plugging his ears just before a loud bang rang out. The two vehicle occupants were issued tickets for possessing a loaded firearm in a motor vehicle and discharging a firearm across a public highway. After dark, LaPoint and Harvey watched as another vehicle approached. The driver used a spotlight to light up the decoy. The passenger opened the vehicle door and shot at the decoy. When he realized it was a decoy, he jumped into the vehicle as LaPoint yelled, “Police, you’re under arrest! Don’t move!” The driver sped away, only to meet Clemens and his vehicle a short distance down the road. Both men were issued tickets for use of lights while in possession of a firearm, loaded gun in a motor vehicle, and discharging a firearm across a public highway. The driver was also ticketed for failing to comply with a lawful order and unlawful possession of marijuana.
‘I thought you would have been here yesterday’
On the morning of Oct. 21, the opening day of the Northern Zone gun season, ECO Steve Shaw received a phone call from an upset hunter in the town of Northumberland. The individual had witnessed another man shoot a small buck on his posted property from a climbing treestand. When the complainant confronted the shooter, he was told,“I came into the property in the dark, how am I supposed to know where the posted signs are?” The shooter provided the property owner with his first name and 12-digit hunter ID number. Shaw investigated the complaint with the property owner and confirmed that the suspect was on posted property when he discharged and killed the deer. Shaw then attempted to locate the suspect and soon realized the shooter had provided the property owner with an incorrect hunter ID number. The following day, Shaw and ECO Ryan Kelley continued to investigate the complaint, searching the hunting license database for all individuals in the town with the same first name provided by the shooter. On their first attempt, they located the subject. As he opened the door at his residence, the subject stated, “I thought you would have been here yesterday.” The man was charged with killing a deer except as permitted by the Fish and Wildlife Law and trespassing. The deer was donated and all charges were pending in Northumberland Town Court.
Veterans pheasant hunt
On Oct. 21, ECO James Davey and Lt. Liza Bobseine assisted the Columbia County Sportsmen’s Federation with the group’s annual pheasant hunt for veterans at the Austerlitz Game Club. Six veterans of the U.S. military were fed breakfast, lunch, and dinner, and given the opportunity to hunt pheasants. For several of the participants, it was a first-time hunting experience.
ECOs go back to school
On Oct. 11, ECOs Anthony Glorioso and Dustin Osbourne, both graduates of SUNY Cobleskill, returned to the college to give a presentation to 56 students on wildlife policy and the paths they took to become ECOs. They discussed job duties, responsibilities, case work and experiences. The SUNY Cobleskill students showed a lot of interest during the question-and-answer session. SUNY Cobleskill professor Dr. Michael Losito and his staff greatly appreciated the presentation, as an ECO position is considered a top tier job by many SUNY Cobleskill graduates.