New York Outdoor News Cuffs & Collars – May 17, 2019
(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.)
A friend in need
On Sept. 11, ECO Burgess was on patrol when she received a phone call from a local wildlife rehabilitator about an injured owl in the town of Montgomery. She arrived at the location and met a woman who showed her where the grounded owl was hiding. The owl appeared alert, but was unable to take flight. Burgess could see it had an injured eye. Armed with a heavy leather glove and towel, Burgess quickly caught the owl and secured it in a crate. The bird was transported to Friends of the Feathered and Furry Wildlife Center, where it received medical assessment and is being treated for its injuries before being released.
ECO discovers missing person
On Feb. 2, ECO John Lifrieri was traveling on I-86 in the town of Campbell when he observed a car swerving badly in the driving lane. Suspecting intoxication or driver distraction, he stopped the vehicle at the Campbell rest area. Lifrieri immediately noticed that the elderly man seemed confused and unaware of his whereabouts. The man denied taking prescription medications and the ECO did not detect any odor of alcohol. The man’s home address on his driver’s license matched his sister’s registration and he confirmed that he lived with her. Multiple attempts to find a valid phone number for the man’s sister failed. New York State Police arrived to assist Lifrieri, and Steuben County dispatch eventually found that the elderly man had been reported as a missing person earlier that day to Rochester police due to dementia issues. Apparently, he had left his sister’s house for an appointment in the Rochester area and never returned. State police worked with Rochester PD to get the man safely back to his home, and Lifrieri secured the car so that a family member could retrieve it the following day.
Burn out the night
Just after 10 p.m. on Feb. 5, a call came through Niagara County 911 reporting a large pile of garbage burning in Middleport. ECO Josh Wolgast responded to the scene along with the Middleport Police Department and the Hartland Fire Company. The fire consisted of various types of construction and demolition debris. A male at the scene stated he had found an ad on Facebook for garbage removal and that he was paid $200 to remove the trash from Buffalo, which he then brought to the residence in Middleport to burn. The fire company extinguished the fire and Wolgast issued the man summonses returnable to Hartland Town Court for the unlawful disposal of solid waste and unpermitted open burning.
ECOs assist with flooding evacuations
Region 8 ECOs staged personnel and equipment in the Finger Lakes and Southern Tier areas in preparation for possible flooding due to severe rainfall from Hurricane Florence. At approximately 1:45 a.m. on Sept. 18, ECO Travis McNamara was contacted by Chemung County dispatch requesting ECOs to help evacuate residents stranded due to flooding. McNamara, ECO John Lifrieri, and Lt. Matt Lochner responded to the staging point at the Wellsburg Fire Department, where they coordinated with first responders from the Wellsburg Fire, West Elmira Fire Department, and Chemung Fire Department. The ECOs assisted personnel throughout the night in evacuating residents and conducting welfare checks, including visiting a local animal kennel housing an estimated 20 cats and dogs.
Late-night striper poaching
On the evening of Nov. 25, ECOs Joshua Jarecki, Michael Wozniak, Zachary Kochanowski and Connor Dodge conducted a marine fishing check near Pelham Bay Park. The ECOs split in two groups to check both sides of the bay simultaneously and observed multiple groups of fishermen wearing headlamps. The first group interviewed by Jarecki claimed they had not caught any fish, but Dodge followed fresh boot prints that led to two hidden short striped bass. Wozniak and Kochanowski checked two groups of fishermen that had 11 short striped bass hanging on the fence of a landfill. Moving their patrol into the Rodman Neck area of Pelham Bay, ECOs observed two fishermen that were packing up their gear and getting ready to leave. The fishermen had two large garbage bags in their possession filled with 12 short striped bass. Over the course of the evening, a total of 25 illegal short striped bass were seized and 11 summonses were issued. The striped bass were seized and donated to the Bowery Mission, which serves the homeless in Manhattan.
Illegal sewage dumping
On Sept. 18, ECO Ryan Grogan received a complaint regarding an illegal septic system in the Gravesend area of Brooklyn. Grogan and DEC staffer Edward Rossan investigated the site and located the septic tank, which was covered with a wooden lid. Further investigation uncovered evidence that the sewage was being pumped from the site into the parking lot of an adjacent store. Grogan and Rossan followed the electrical cord from the sump pump onto the adjacent property. Speaking to the resident, Grogan discovered that the owner of the property had been utilizing the pump for years. The property owner was issued a Notice of Violation for the illegal disposal of solid waste, allowing the opportunity to settle the case with DEC administratively. If the property owner fails to resolve the issue, the case will be handled in Kings County Criminal Court.
On Sept. 28, ECOs Steve Lakeman and Rob Howe responded to a report of an owl stuck in a foothold trap behind a house in the town of Deerfield. The officers could see the owl’s right talon was caught in the trap, preventing it from flying. The ECOs netted the owl with a fishing net and carefully released the trap. The owl took a few hops, looked back at the ECOs for a moment, and flew away, appearing healthy and unharmed. There were no tags on the trap to identify who had set it. ECOs removed the illegal trap.
Right place at the right time
On Sept. 19, a citizen approached ECO Keith Levanway and park security officer Matt McDonald in the parking lot of Boughton Park in East Bloomfield looking for assistance with a dog having difficulty breathing up a narrow trail. The officers ran to the dog’s aid and Levanway recognized the condition as mega-esophagus from his own experience with a family pet. The officer held the dog in a position that allowed it to breathe while the owner brought a vehicle down the park’s trail to transport the dog for veterinary care. The dog is expected to make a full recovery.
On Sept. 19, ECOs George Scheer and Shea Mathis were on boat patrol in the Lower Niagara River when they were approached by a group of fishermen in another boat. The anglers reported an individual in a red shirt blatantly snagging fish from shore about a mile upriver along the Gorge Trail in Niagara Falls. From their patrol vessel, the ECOs could not navigate that far upriver due to strong currents and underwater obstructions. The ECOs piloted their vessel back to its mooring in Youngstown and drove to Niagara Falls, hoping to catch the subject before he left the scene. In Niagara Falls, the ECOs walked the trail and spotted the subject in the red shirt making repeated and exaggerated jerking motions of his fishing rod. Three other individuals were with him. The four were ticketed for attempting to take fish by snagging, possession of snatch hooks, and fishing without valid licenses.
Bear relocated from the City of Newburgh
On Sept. 22, ECO Jon Walraven received a call from the Newburgh Police Department regarding a large bear that had made its way into a heavily populated area in the city. The bear had climbed a tree and would not come down. Walraven arrived on scene and found that the bear had run across the street and up a second tree. From its new perch, the bear had access to several rooftops. Officers from the Newburgh Police Department and the New York State Police were already on scene and had cordoned off the area around the bear. Walraven contacted ECO Will Chomicki and DEC Wildlife Biologist Matt Merchant for assistance. The team arrived and successfully immobilized the bear. The officers safely transported the animal out of the city for relocation back into the wild.
Five short fluke
On Sept. 20, ECOs Evan Laczi, Christopher DeRose, and K-9 Kramer were on boat patrol near Fire Island Inlet in Babylon when they encountered an individual eager to show the officers three bluefish he had caught. The officers boarded the vessel and discovered, in addition to the three legal bluefish, five undersized fluke in a storage bin in the stern of the vessel. The fisherman was issued summonses for possessing undersized fluke, as all five were well under the minimum size of 19 inches, and taking over the bag limit, as the daily limit is four fluke per person.
Youth goose hunt
(Oneida and Madison counties)
On the weekend of Sept. 22 and 23, ECO Steve Lakeman helped put on the eighth annual youth goose hunt for Oneida and Madison counties at the Cassety Hollow Rod and Gun Club in Oriskany Falls. ECOs Ricardo Grisolini, Josh Jarecki and Zachary Kochanowski also aided in the hunt, which is focused on taking youths ages 12 to 15 to hunt geese and waterfowl. Along with mentors from the club, the ECOs educated 13 youth hunters, many of whom were in the field hunting geese for the first time. While on the hunt, the youth hunters learned how to properly set up decoys to mimic natural flocks of geese, how to call in geese, and how to properly use a goose call. The youth hunters also learned about the importance of hunter safety while in large groups. In total, the group harvested five Canada geese.
Bear case solved
On Sept. 24, DEC’s Dispatch Center received a tip from a concerned citizen regarding an individual who had shot multiple bears during the early bear hunting season. The caller reported that a sow and her two cubs were killed on Sept. 22. The case was assigned to ECO Chris Lagree, who determined that the illegal bears were taken less than a mile from his own residence. Lagree interviewed the suspect at his home in Plattsburgh, and the suspect admitted to taking the sow and cubs in addition to another bear. The hunter also admitted to having shot the bears over a bait pile. The bears were seized from an adjacent garage. The hunter was charged with three counts of taking over the limit for bear, three counts of illegally taking bear, failing to tag bears as required, and taking bear over a pre-established bait pile. The following day, ECO Matt LaCroix and K-9 Diesel assisted Lagree with locating the location where the bears were shot and securing physical evidence from the scene. The charges are returnable to Saranac Town Court.
—New York State Department of Environmental Conservation officer reports