New York Outdoor News Cuffs & Collars – July 12, 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.)
Hunting over bait
On Oct. 13, ECO Mark Vencak responded to an illegal dumping complaint in the town of Worcester. Upon arriving at the suspect’s home, the officer noticed seven bags of corn piled on the ground near the rear door. The officer was met by the wife of the alleged offender. She said that she did not know her husband’s location. Vencak noticed fresh ATV tracks nearby and asked the woman for permission to walk the property. The ECO located the man in the woods exiting one of several baited treestands on the property. The subject was carrying a crossbow loaded with a bolt with a broadhead. The man stated that he was hunting turkeys. The ECO checked the surrounding area and found three additional baited corn piles. The subject was charged with hunting turkey out of season, hunting over bait, and illegal dumping of solid waste. He was set to appear in Worcester Town Court to answer to the charges.
On Oct. 14, ECO Michael Wozniak received a call from a complainant stating that an individual had caught and failed to release two blackfish from Oceanbreeze Pier. When Wozniak arrived at the scene, he was met by the complainant, who said the individual in question had left. The ECO patrolled the area and observed two anglers fishing on a jetty next to the pier. As he greeted the anglers, Wozniak noticed what appeared to be a blackfish tail sticking out from beneath a rock on the jetty. Both anglers claimed they had not caught fish that day and were about to leave. The officer inquired about the fish underneath the rock and both individuals denied catching it. Upon further inspection, the ECO found eight blackfish, six of which were under the legal size limit of 16 inches. Fortunately, all eight fish were still alive and were returned to the water. The fishermen were issued two violations each for possession of blackfish out of season and failure to carry a marine registry. All summonses were returnable to Richmond County Criminal Court.
Anything that burns?
Unlawful open burning continues to be an issue in Region 7, with multiple complaints. On Oct. 14, ECO Harry Chase responded to the town of Afton to investigate a report of open burning for disposal. A town resident alleged that a subject had recently bought a barn and was cleaning it out, burning nearly all of its contents in an open fire. Upon his arrival, Chase found a large fire that included tires. In addition, the subject was observing his three children enjoying pizza close to the flames, subjecting them to the thick, black smoke. When confronted, the subject stated he thought he was doing the neighborhood a favor by burning the debris. Chase charged the subject with unlawful disposal of solid waste and unlawful open burning.
Illegally taken deer
On Oct. 14, ECO Jennifer Okonuk received a complaint that a 5-point buck had been shot from Akins Road in the town of Dickinson. Okonuk responded to the location and met with a New York State trooper. Soon after, a slow-driving vehicle pulled into the field with its headlights turned off. The ECO drove into the field and activated her emergency lights. The vehicle attempted to flee, but Okonuk boxed it in. ECO Kevin Riggs arrived on scene to help interview the two individuals in the vehicle. The pair were charged with misdemeanors for possessing a loaded firearm in a motor vehicle, discharging a firearm from a public highway, and killing a deer except as permitted by law. The deer was given to a local venison donation program.
Salmon River shenanigans
Mid-October was quite busy for Region 7 ECOs with the late salmon run luring fishermen to the Salmon River to bag a trophy fish, some with little regard for the law. ECOs Ricardo Grisolini and Rob Howe worked in plainclothes, observing two individuals attempting to take fish by snatching in Pulaski. While watching the pair, one of the individuals managed to hook and land a fish. The angler put the fish onto a stringer rather than releasing it as required. As the fishermen prepared to leave the water, the ECOs approached and identified themselves. Grisolini issued the first violator summonses for attempting to take fish by snatching and keeping a foul-hooked fish. Howe issued the second angler a summons for attempting to take fish by snatching. The next day, the officers spotted two anglers near the South Trestle Pool foul-hook an Atlantic salmon and a steelhead. While questioning the subjects, the ECOs determined one was fishing with an expired license. The two fishermen were ticketed for various violations, including possession of foul-hooked fish and fishing without a freshwater fishing license. On the same day, ECO Matt Foster responded to a complaint of trespassing on property owned by the Douglaston Salmon Run. The suspect in this case was issued a ticket for trespassing.
On Oct. 20, ECO Kevin Wamsley received call from a bowhunter in the town of Putnam Valley. The bowhunter had heard gunshots during the bowhunting season. Wamsley responded to the area and met with the bowhunter, who pointed him in the direction of where he heard the shots. Wamsley made his way to the area and found two large feeders overflowing with corn. He soon located a parked vehicle nearby and waited for the owner to return. A short time later an individual came over a hill with an untagged hen turkey in hand. Wamsley asked the individual about the bait and the man quickly admitted to placing it there for turkeys and deer. Two summonses were issued, one for failure to tag a turkey as required and one for taking a turkey with the aid of bait. The turkey was seized and donated, and the charges were returnable in Putnam Valley Town Court.
The couple that poaches together
On the evening of Oct. 12, ECO George LaPoint received a call from a homeowner in the town of Stony Creek. The caller reported that his neighbor had shot a bear within 500 feet of his house. LaPoint and ECO Rob Higgins arrived at the suspect’s residence and the man showed the ECOs the bear, which was tagged with his wife’s tag. The ECOs asked the wife to show them where she had shot the bear while the husband was asked to stay inside. Higgins and the wife walked to a hunting shack while discussing the details of how the bear had been shot while LaPoint followed an ATV trail and drag marks to a pile of corn, where he discovered fresh bear blood. With the wife’s story crumbling, the husband admitted to shooting the bear within 500 feet of the neighbor’s home and over the illegal bait pile. The subject was issued tickets for illegally feeding bears, taking a bear over bait, and illegally taking wildlife. The wife was issued a ticket for lending her tags. The neighbor declined to press charges for shooting within 500 feet of his residence. The case was to be heard in the Stony Creek Town Court.
Deer cases abound
On Oct. 20, ECO Kevin Wamsley received a call from a resident in Carmel who had discovered a dead deer in his yard. The deer had been pierced by an arrow. Wamsley arrived and checked a wooded area behind the home, where he found a second dead deer with an arrow wound and drag marks leading to a house nearby. As the officer made his way to the house, he found a large pile of corn nearby. Wamsley requested ECO Craig Tompkins to assist him in the investigation. When the homeowner returned, he quickly admitted to the officers that he had shot the large doe over the bait, but could not drag it to his house alone. He denied shooting the original deer in the neighbor’s yard. The individual was issued two summonses, one for taking a deer over bait and one for illegally taking deer, both returnable to Carmel Town Court. Both deer were donated to a local sanctuary.
Illegal sidewalk sale of striped bass
(New York County)
On Oct. 20, ECOs Chloe Swansen and Brendan Dickson were dispatched to a complaint of short striped bass being offered for sale in Manhattan’s Chinatown. As the ECOs arrived at the address provided, the officers noticed people gathered on the sidewalk viewing 12 striped bass laid out on black plastic bags being offered at prices below market rate. Swansen quickly stepped in and ended the sidewalk sale. The ECOs interviewed the seller, who admitted to catching the undersized striped bass in the Hudson River. The fisherman did not possess a valid food fish permit for selling the fish. As a result, the seller was issued three summonses returnable to Manhattan Court.
(New York County)
On Oct. 20, ECOs Chloe Swansen and Brendan Dickson received a complaint about a man hiding fish in a bag at Battery Park. The ECOs met the complainant at the park, who identified the fisherman and where the illegal fish were hidden. The two ECOs split up and observed the fisherman from different locations. After a few minutes, the fisherman reeled in his line, walked to his bicycle, and pulled up a green mesh bag. The ECOs approached and discovered that the bag contained a total of 10 blackfish, nine of which were under the legal size of 16 inches. The daily possession limit of blackfish is four. The fisherman was issued three citations.
Illegal turtle possession
On Oct. 20, ECOs Jeannette Bastedo and Jason Smith responded to a complaint from the Ulster County SPCA regarding a couple in the town of Saugerties in possession of a snapping turtle. The female had recently been arrested by Ulster Regional Gang Enforcement Narcotics Team (URGENT) for a variety of offenses after a search warrant of their residence confirmed that narcotics were being sold there. The Ulster County SPCA was alerted due to several domestic and exotic animals found at the residence. Bastedo and Smith responded to the residence and confirmed that the species was indeed a large snapping turtle. The ECOs visited the Ulster County Jail to interview the female, who stated that she had bought the turtle and didn’t know it was illegal to possess the animal without a permit. She was charged with illegally possessing the turtle.
Advice from Spiderman
On Oct. 27, ECO Jerry Kinney was visiting a community Halloween parade in Lakewood when he struck up a conversation with an inquisitive Logan Johnson, who was dressed up as Spiderman. The young man and his mother were interested in ECO Kinney’s work, and the officer shared a few stories and photos from the job. ECO Kinney kept Spiderman’s curiosity peaked for some time. Both Kinney and Logan commented that their conversation was the highlight of their week.