(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.)
Illegal dumping complaints
On Feb. 27, ECO Jennifer Okonuk received a complaint from the New York State Police regarding solid waste dumping in the town of Malone. The next day, she received a call about more piles of garbage dumped just outside the village limits. Okonuk investigated the piles and found evidence that led her to a specific building in town. The owner of the building said that she had paid two men to bring the garbage to the dump. The woman provided Okonuk with the text message conversation and name and phone number of one of the individuals. Okonuk interviewed the suspect who, at first, denied being involved, but eventually admitted to dumping the garbage with another individual. Both subjects were issued tickets for the unlawful disposal of solid waste returnable to the Malone Town Court on March 4. Okonuk instructed the individuals to have the garbage cleaned up and to provide documentation that the materials were properly disposed.
World Fishing & Outdoor Expo
Rockland County Community College hosted the annual World Fishing and Outdoor Exposition Feb. 28 through March 3, and several ECOs and DEC Fish and Wildlife experts staffed booths to speak with the public. The ECOs fielded hundreds of questions concerning hunting and fishing laws, many related to updated fishing regulations and the upcoming spring turkey season. The most common inquiry the officers received was, “How do I become an EnCon Officer?” The ECOs spoke about the educational requirements for an ECO, the rigors of the training academy, and the diversity and excitement of the job. This event gives the public the opportunity to meet local ECOs in person and allows the officers to build strong relationships within their communities.
(St. Lawrence County)
On Feb. 28, ECOs Bret Canary and John Ryan responded to a bank robbery at the Community Bank in the town of Hermon. Canary secured a portion of the perimeter that had been established around the scene. Ryan arrived on scene shortly after the initial response and assisted the St. Lawrence County Sheriff’s Department and state police with evidence preservation and scene security. The DEC Division of Law Enforcement worked with multiple agencies during the investigation, which resulted in the arrest of the suspect on March 2, by the St. Lawrence County Sheriff’s Department on charges of robbery in the 2nd Degree.
Ice is not an excuse
On March 1, ECO Don Damrath was busy checking ice fisherman on Otisco Lake in the town of Spafford when he observed an excavator in the distance working along the shoreline. A closer inspection revealed contractors repairing and replacing an existing limestone rock wall. The problem was that they were extending the wall a few feet out and placing fill into the lake, all without a permit. The contractors claimed “someone” advised them that if the lake was frozen and that the work did not require a permit or erosion mitigation measures. The subjects could not provide a name or documentation. Damrath advised the workers to remove the unlawful fill by hand, install silt fencing to protect water quality, and await further inspection by Region 7 habitat biologist Tiffany Toukatly. Otisco Lake is the most easterly of the 11 Finger Lakes and supports populations of panfish, bass, and tiger muskellunge. As a result of the unauthorized work, the contractor was charged for violating ECL Article 15 and faced $1,500 in penalties.
Looking for a way out
On March 3, ECO Harry Chase responded to a call from the Cornell University Campus Safety regarding a deer trapped in a courtyard. The wayward deer had jumped a railing and ended up 20 feet below ground in a small courtyard. Chase and Campus Safety personnel decided the safest course of action was to open the doors to the courtyard and carefully herd the deer into the adjoining academic building, down a hallway, and out the exit doors at ground level. After blocking the hallways leading into the building, they successfully pushed the deer out a door. The deer slipped and skated along the hallway’s slick floors but exited the building and ran off in good health to the delight of about 75 students gathered to watch.
Nuisance and injured wildlife training
On March 4, Lt. Liza Bobseine and ECO Wes Leubner trained law enforcement, animal control officers, and district attorneys’ offices in the handling of nuisance and sick/injured wildlife calls. The training was held at the Mohawk-Hudson Humane Society in Menands. DEC biologist Kevin Hynes also contributed to the presentation with a discussion about how to identify common wildlife diseases and prevent exposure. DEC biologists Stacy Preusser and Erin Losito were also on hand to answer questions from the class about wildlife and the various permits issued by DEC.
Funeral detail for retired DLE director
On March 8, family, friends, and more than 30 members from DEC’s Division of Law Enforcement gathered to pay their respects at funeral services for retired DLE Director Donald “Wayne” Brewer. Director Brewer died unexpectedly but peacefully on Feb. 12 at the age of 69. Brewer began his career with DLE in 1973 and rose through the ranks to be appointed director in 1997 at 47. Upon retirement, Brewer returned to his beloved Seneca County, fulfilling a promise he made to come home and serve his community. He was a prolific freelance outdoor writer with countless articles published in local and regional newspapers, national environmental magazines, and trade journals. Harboring a deep love for the environment and wildlife, Brewer spent his retirement years encouraging young men and women to revere and protect nature by entering environmental professions. DEC Commissioner Basil Seggos said, “Wayne will be greatly missed, but we will honor his legacy by continuing the conservation and preservation efforts he fought for his entire life.”