(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.)
Persistence pays off
During the 2016 big-game season, ECO John Lifrieri investigated a baiting complaint in the town of Ashland. At that time, a mineral block and other bait were being used at several treestands on a property. After several unsuccessful attempts to find the subject hunting over the bait, Lifrieri decided to wait until the 2017 seasons. Just prior to the 2017 bow season, the officer checked the hunter’s ground blind and tree stand again with no luck. Later, Lifrieri carefully scouted the surrounding vicinity and discovered a mineral block tucked down behind a tree near a treestand and a somewhat fresh gut pile. The hunter had reported an 8-point buck harvested on Nov. 20. Lifrieri documented the information, took photos, and left the scene. On Dec. 8, the ECO finally caught the perpetrator hunting in the treestand. The man admitted to hunting the area several times since the 2016 season, and that he knew baiting deer and using a mineral block were illegal. The subject also confirmed that he had shot the 8-point buck in the baited area. The hunter was charged with hunting deer with the aid of bait, unlawful feeding of deer, placing a mineral block on lands inhabited by deer, and a misdemeanor for taking an illegal deer. The hunter’s case was to be heard on in Ashland Town Court. Several pounds of processed venison were seized and confiscated from the subject’s residence and donated to the Wellsburg Food Cupboard food pantry.
The big bad wolf
On Dec. 11, ECOs Charles Eyler III and Craig Tompkins received information from ECO Adam Johnson that an individual was selling a timber wolf mount and a bear mount on Craigslist. The two ECOs contacted the seller that day and set up a time to meet and purchase the wolf mount. The following day, the two ECOs contacted the seller, who explained that his father would close the deal in his place. When asked how much he was asking for the wolf and bear mounts, the seller said it would be $1,200 for the wolf and $1,900 for the bear. Upon arrival in uniform and in a marked patrol vehicle, the two ECOs knocked on the door and identified themselves, stating “We are here for the timber wolf mount.” The bewildered father quickly realized why they were there and said, “Oh, you can just take it.” However, offering the six-foot mount for sale is illegal. The father showed the ECOs to the garage where the mount was being stored and explained that he had bought the pelt from a hunting guide in Saskatchewan, Canada, had it mounted there, and shipped to his office in Queens nearly 25 years ago. When the man brought it home, his wife said he needed to get rid of it. The father then asked his son to find a way to get rid of it, at which point the son placed the ad on Craigslist. The wolf mount was seized and the charges will be handled administratively by the Region 3 DLE office.
Motor vehicle accident
On Dec. 12, ECOs Craig Tompkins and Charles Eyler were traveling south on the Taconic State Parkway in Westchester County when they observed two cars stopped on the shoulder. As they passed the first car, Tompkins spotted a car in the woods with the driver still inside. The two ECOs quickly pulled to the side of the road and rushed to the driver’s aid. The driver was awake and alert, but had minor cuts on his hands and face. Eyler stayed with the driver as Tompkins spoke with the drivers of the other cars who had witnessed the incident. The other drivers stated that the driver of the car in the woods was traveling in the right lane when he lost control and hit the shoulder. The car then rolled and went airborne before coming to rest in the woods along the parkway. Tompkins contacted Westchester 911 to give updates to the fire department and EMS responders en-route to the scene, while Eyler placed flares in the right lane of the parkway to control traffic and make room for the other responders coming to the scene. Once the emergency responders arrived, the two ECOs updated the staff and assisted lifting the driver from the vehicle to the ambulance. The driver of the vehicle was taken to the hospital for further evaluation.
Striped bass out of season
(Queens and New York counties)
On Dec. 16, while conducting recreational marine fishing checks, ECO Jeff Johnston observed two individuals fishing the East River at Francis Lewis Park under the Whitestone Bridge in Queens County. This park is a popular spot during the blackfish and striped bass fishing seasons. Striped bass season extends from April 15 to Dec. 15 in the marine waters south of the George Washington Bridge. After Johnston observed the fishermen through his binoculars catching multiple striped bass, ECOs Jankowski, Dobies and Kelly arrived on the scene. Dobies and Jankowski approached the subjects from the west side of the bridge abutment, while Johnston approached the suspects from the east side to make sure evidence was not thrown into the water while the officers approached. The two subjects were in possession of seven striped bass, and each subject was charged with possession of striped bass during the closed season and expired marine registries, for a total of four summons all returnable to the Queens County Court. Three of the seized fish were released back to the waters of the state while the remaining four were donated.
Also on Dec. 16, ECOs Brendan Dickson and Adam Johnson where patrolling East River Park in Manhattan for marine fishing violations. The officers spotted two fishermen fishing off the bulkhead of the park. Usually this location is a hot spot for blackfish, striped bass, and oyster toad fish, but because the blackfish and striped bass seasons are closed, the officers waited to see what fish the subjects were trying to catch. After a few minutes, one of the fishermen had a bite, and pulled in a striped bass. Instead of releasing the striped bass back into the water, the fisherman placed the fish in a bag and hid it in a nearby trash can. Dickson and Johnson quickly approached the fishermen and pulled the fish out from the trash can. The fisherman was issued two tickets, possession of striped bass out of season and failure to release a fish with undue harm, and the fish was released back into the water.
On Dec. 15, ECO Jeff Hull came across a suspicious vehicle driving the back roads in the town of Ava. Hull watched the vehicle as it performed an illegal U-turn and almost entered a ditch. The officer stopped the vehicle and the driver explained that she was searching for her husband, who had driven his snowmobile into a pond in the area but was uncertain of his exact location. Hull notified Oneida County dispatch and EMS. Using his cellphone, Hull then told the lost snowmobiler to call 911 to allow his phone to be pinged. Once his coordinates were obtained, Hull narrowed down the area to be checked using his GPS. The subject was wet from head to toe and sounded as if he was in the beginning stages of shock. The subject could not see the patrol lights or hear the sirens of the units searching for him, but could see a house in the distance. Hull advised the man to head toward the house after obtaining a description, distance and direction. Within 10 minutes, the subject was met at the house by Hull, EMS and the New York State Police. He was checked out by EMS and determined to be uninjured, just wet and cold.
Bear-ly made it
On Dec. 18, ECO Brian Canzeri received a call from a hunter concerned about a small bear he had found while hunting in the woods in the town of Berlin. The hunter had observed the bear looking unwell on Dec. 17, and returned the next day to find that it had not moved. Canzeri contacted Rensselaer County Animal Control Officer McDonough, who responded to the location with a large carrier. The hunter and his son escorted Canzeri and McDonugh approximately one mile back into the woods through a foot and a half of snow. Together, the officers and hunters captured the small female bear, which weighed 29 pounds, and secured her in the carrier. The team carried the cub out of the woods, and Canzeri and ECO Jason Curinga took the bear to the North Country Wildcare facility in Saratoga County. A licensed veterinary technician administered IV fluids and antibiotics. The tech also removed several porcupine quills from the cub’s face with the officers’ assistance. The bear will be turned over to a permitted wildlife rehabilitator.
Odd time to scout for deer
On Dec.18, the second-to-last day of the southern zone muzzleloader season for deer, ECO George Scheer was conducting hunting checks in the town of Lewiston. While waiting for hunters to return to their vehicles, Scheer observed an ATV cross the roadway and drive away. A nearby truck parked by the road had ATV ramps and, shortly after sunset, Scheer observed the ATV driving along the roadway toward the truck. When the operator observed the ECO, he quickly left the roadway and drove down a trail away from the truck. The officer finished checking other hunters in the area, and waited for the ATV to return. Within 30 minutes, the ECO observed the interior lights of the truck turn on although the ATV had not returned. Scheer found the man who had been operating the ATV in the truck. When asked about the ATV, the man claimed he had not been driving it, and his brother must have operated the vehicle. The subject added that he did not know his brother’s location. Upon further questioning, the subject admitted to driving the ATV, but claimed he was not hunting and was only scouting for deer. Scheer told the man that it was an odd time to be scouting for deer as most hunters do so before the season, not on the second-to-last day of the season. The man asked if he could go get the ATV and bring it back to the truck, so Scheer went with him to retrieve the ATV. During the walk to the ATV, the man advised Scheer that he is a convicted felon but does not hunt with a firearm. When they arrived at the ATV, Scheer located a tube of gunpowder and footprints that led away from the ATV to the woodline. Faced with this evidence, the man admitted to hunting with a muzzleloader and hiding it in the woods. The subject was charged with operating an unregistered ATV, operating an ATV without a helmet, operating an ATV on a highway, two counts of possessing tags of another, and criminal possession of a weapon, 4th degree. All of the charges were returnable to Lewiston Town Court.