(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.)
Wrapped up buck
On Oct. 24, DEC Environmental Conservation Investigator Joshua Sulkey and ECO Jeannette Bastedo responded to a buck entangled in poultry fencing in the town of Rochester. The officers requested assistance from DEC Division of Wildlife staff Jonathan Russell and Michael Menza, as the buck’s antlers could not be easily untangled and the animal was energetic. Once on scene, DEC staff worked together to physically immobilize the buck and attempt to free the antler. The ECOs and wildlife staff were unable to free it, so the antler was cut and the buck ran off in good health.
Deer in distress
On Nov. 16, Region 1 ECOs responded to a deer in distress at a residence in Baiting Hollow, town of Riverhead. When officers arrived, the ECOs found a large buck with antlers tangled in a batting cage net. The buck, with plenty of energy, thrashed and tried to pull himself free. The officers safely subdued the animal and cut the nylon netting away from the buck’s rack. Once free, the buck ran into a wooded area with no visible injuries.
Lt. Aaron Gordon promoted to Captain
DEC recently promoted Lt. Aaron Gordon to Captain of the Division of Law Enforcement’s Training Unit. Gordon is a 13-year veteran of the force, previously serving as an ECO in Regions 1, 3 and 8 prior to being promoted to lieutenant in 2015. In the course of his duties, Gordon was a member of the Chemical Immobilization Team and an instructor in emergency vehicle operations. As a lieutenant, Gordon was the Marine Enforcement Unit supervisor in Region 2, which enforces state Environmental Conservation Law and other laws in the New York City metropolitan area and surrounding marine district. In 2016 and 2018, Gordon was assigned as Officer in Charge of the 20th and 21st Basic Schools for Uniformed Officers while serving as Training Lieutenant. As captain of the Training Unit, Gordon will oversee all law enforcement trainings statewide. He will be responsible for developing training programs and course outlines in collaboration with the Department of Criminal Justice Services, as well as other state and federal agencies, to ensure DEC officers are trained to the highest possible standards. Gordon will also direct the daily operations of the DEC Training Facility with his staff.
During the week of Feb. 18 to 22, DEC Division of Law Enforcement (DLE) instructors from Regions 4, 5 and 6 conducted two basic snowmobile operator courses at the DLE training academy in Pulaski. The course was attended by students from the New York State Police, Pulaski Police Department, Oswego County Sheriff’s Office, Monroe County Sheriff’s Office, Albany County Sheriff’s Office, Village of Phoenix Police Department, and DLE members from across the state. Twenty-eight officers completed the training that focused on the skills needed to safely operate police snowmobiles in tough terrain.
On May 1, Lt. Kenric Warner responded to a truck rollover on State Route 17 in the town of Windsor. A tractor trailer hauling residential household waste to the Seneca Meadows Landfill overturned on a bridge over Tuscarora Creek, a tributary to the Susquehanna River. Waste spilled over the bridge into the stream, onto the highway, and along the side of the highway. New York State Police found vehicle and traffic law violations and ticketed the driver for speeding and an unsafe lane change. ECO Eric Templeton followed up on the case and charged the driver with a misdemeanor, contravention of water quality standards based on negligent actions that resulted in the trash ending up in the stream. The case was to be heard in Windsor Town Court, and the ECL charge can result in fines ranging from $3,750 to $37,500 and/or up to one year in jail. John Okesson with DEC Spill Response was on scene to monitor the cleanup by National Response Corp. out of Syracuse as NRC cleaned up the affected stream and banks. The New York State Department of Transportation helped remove the waste from the roadway.
Two turkeys, two states, lots of tickets
On May 3, ECO Brian Canzeri received a call about individuals hunting turkeys from the roads in the town of Petersburg along the Vermont border. Canzeri located the suspects’ vehicle and followed it. Canzeri stopped the vehicle and later determined that the father-and-son duo had shot a turkey from a road earlier in the day, trespassed on posted property to retrieve it, failed to tag it with New York tags, drove to Vermont to tag it with a Vermont tag, and came back into New York to continue hunting from roads. A second illegally possessed turkey was also found in the bed of the suspects’ pick-up truck. Vermont Game Wardens were notified, and officers met Canzeri and the subjects at the location to continue the investigation. The father and son were charged with more than a dozen violations of both New York and Vermont laws, and Canzeri seized the birds and shotgun as evidence
Illegal commercialization of wildlife (Dutchess County)
On May 3, ECO Zachary Crain received a tip about a mountain lion taxidermy mount offered for sale on Craigslist in Wappingers Falls. A fellow ECO mentioned he had seen the mount in the storefront window of a business there, so Crain visited the business and explained it is illegal to sell parts of certain wildlife in New York. The uncooperative employee insisted it wasn’t being offered for sale and any further questions would be answered by his brother, the owner of the store. Within minutes, Crain noticed that the online posting had been deleted. Crain contacted the owner, who faced charges of offering for sale any part of certain wild animals and illegal commercialization of wildlife. The owner was instructed not to sell or otherwise dispose of the mount while DEC’s enforcement case is ongoing.
Wrong time to take a shot
On the morning of May 3, a New York State Trooper was traveling behind a pickup truck in the town of Grove when the truck suddenly stopped in the middle of the road. Much to the trooper’s disbelief, the operator of the truck pointed a gun out the window and fired two rounds at a turkey approximately 10 yards off the road. Both shots missed and the turkey flew away unharmed. The trooper pulled the truck over. ECO RJ Ward responded to assist. After interviewing the shooter, Ward charged the subject with possession of a loaded firearm in a motor vehicle, discharging a firearm from a public highway, illegally attempting to kill a turkey, attempting to take wildlife from a public highway, and attempting to take wildlife from a motor vehicle.
All tangled up
On May 3, ECO Mary Grose responded to a call of a young red fox tangled in a soccer net at a daycare center in the town of Greene. Grose, assisted by a New York State Trooper, untangled the young fox and, as it was otherwise uninjured and appeared healthy, released the kit into the nearby woods. The children at the daycare were excited about the opportunity to observe the young fox, witness the rescue and listen to guidance provided by Grose regarding safety around wild animals.
Armored car in a bad spot
On Feb. 22, Sgt. Taryn Tomasik assisted a New York State Police unit with a disabled armored truck on I-787 in Albany. A GPS unit attached to the truck’s engine had come loose, preventing the motor from running and causing rush hour traffic backups. Quick thinking led Tomasik to fashion a rope out of medical tape from her first aid bag, temporarily securing the GPS unit to the engine. This allowed the truck to start, deliver its load and alleviate traffic.
Illegal turkey take
On May 4, ECO Nathan Doig responded to a call about an individual who had shot a turkey close to a residence and from the roadway in the town of Davenport. The complainant had been able to take a photograph of the vehicle and its license plate. ECOs Tim Card and Vern Bauer and K-9 Woods responded to assist in gathering evidence and investigating the case. A witness stated they heard four shots. Once K-9 Woods retrieved four shotgun shells, the ECOs determined the shots were taken between 90 and 300 feet from the complainant’s residence. Card helped to locating the individual and the subject was in possession of a turkey that had his girlfriend’s tag on it. Tickets were issued to both individuals, including trespassing, illegal taking of a turkey, shooting from a public highway, shooting within 500 feet of a dwelling, and lending and using the tags of another. The turkey was seized as evidence and the charges were returnable to Davenport Town Court.
On the evening of May 4, ECO Maxwell Nicols received a call from a concerned sportsman who witnessed subjects catching fish on the shore of Lake Champlain in Ticonderoga, gutting them on shore, and loading the fish into a nearby vehicle. When he arrived, Nicols saw the four male subjects loading fishing gear into their SUV and preparing to leave. Nicols approached and spotted multiple garbage bags in the vehicle that contained a total of 23 chain pickerel, nine black bass and one northern pike. All four men were issued tickets for taking black bass out of season, returnable to Ticonderoga Town Court.
Winter carnival enforcement
Throughout February each year, ECOs from Warren, Washington, Saratoga and Essex counties patrol the Lake George Winter Carnival, an annual event that attracts thousands to Lake George Village for a wide range of motorized and non-motorized activities both on and off the lake. During day and evening shifts, ECOs dealt with unsafe operation of recreational vehicles, snowmobile accidents, and vehicles that sunk into the lake. ECOs conducted snowmobile speed enforcement on the trail systems and set up checkpoints to deter intoxicated snowmobiling. The officers issued numerous tickets during the carnival for a variety of offenses.
More out-of-season bass
On May 5, ECO Tim Worden assisted Fort Drum Federal Game Wardens Colton Rider and Steve Ramil in the investigation of a group taking black bass during the closed season from Indian Lake in the town of Diana. A group had been camping for the weekend at the lake and five black bass were found by the wardens in a cooler. One of the campers took responsibility for the illegally caught fish and was charged with five counts of taking black bass during the closed season. The tickets were returnable to the Town of Diana Court.
Endangered species protection
Region 8 ECOs conducted a unique detail in an effort to protect an endangered species while assisting local landowners with traffic and public safety issues. For years, short-eared owls have been using a Livingston County neighborhood as winter feeding grounds. The owls are easily photographed as they fly low to the ground in this picturesque area, hunting for rodents. Word spread on social media, and members of the public began showing up, parking on the road and setting up camera tripods. This year, ECOs received a complaint that someone had launched a drone to pursue the owls in an attempt to capture video. The increased traffic has also caused headaches for local residents. ECOs spent time in the area, speaking with numerous bird enthusiasts and educating them on the laws protecting endangered and threatened species. ECOs have also attempted to mediate the parking, traffic and trespassing issues. Through this outreach, the officers are hopeful the owls will remain undisturbed and continue to winter in this unique area.
Tangled up in twine
On Feb. 27, ECOs Ryan Kelley and Jacob Jankowski were on patrol in Far Rockaway in Queens County when they noticed a seagull walking through the grass in the sand dunes. The bird appeared to be limping. Looking through binoculars, the officers could see that the bird’s left wing was entangled in a ball of fishing line. The ECOs captured the bird and removed the fishing line, but the bird was unable to fly away. The ECOs transported it to a wildlife rehabilitator, where the bird was treated for dehydration and malnutrition and made a rapid recovery.