New York Outdoor News Cuffs & Collars – July 24, 2020
On June 20, ECO Jeff Cox received a call from a concerned homeowner in Copake reporting a large rattlesnake on their front porch. The homeowner sent pictures of the pit viper, confirming it was a timber rattlesnake. Timber rattlesnakes are the largest venomous snake in New York and listed as a threatened species. The rattlesnake appeared to come and go over the weekend before slithering under the house, causing the homeowner to worry it was taking up residence there. Members of DEC’s Division of Law Enforcement consulted with wildlife staff and decided to trap and relocate the rattlesnake. After a few unsuccessful attempts, ECO Cox wrangled the rattlesnake into a container on the morning of June 24. The rattlesnake was transported to a location in the Taconic Mountains, which is a known den site, and released unharmed. The homeowner expressed great appreciation that the unwanted guest was removed from their residence.
Mystery Snake Finds New Home (Steuben County)
On June 10, ECO Ron Gross received a complaint from an individual in Corning who found a python in their apartment. ECO Gross responded and identified the snake as a ball python, a common pet. The python is legal to own and often sold at pet stores, but the subject had no idea where it came from and neither did anyone else in the building. The subject who found the snake suspected it may have escaped or had been left behind by previous tenants. One of the subject’s neighbors asked if she could keep the animal as a pet. Since ball pythons are not regulated by DEC and the animal appeared to be in good health, ECO Gross allowed the neighbor to take possession of the animal.
Wildlife Response Team Rescues Milk Snake
On June 23, ECOs Nathan Doig and Dustin Osborne received a complaint that a milk snake had found its way into a residence in Davenport and was trapped in a live wire electrical box. Officers responded to the residence with snake tongs and hand tools to safely remove it. First, ECOs shut off the main breaker as a safety precaution, eliminating power to the house. Next, ECO Osborne removed the cover to the electrical service box while ECO Doig used snake tongs to safely remove the snake from inside the electrical panel. The snake appeared to have entered the electrical panel through the conduit feed entering the home from outside power lines. ECOs released the snake back into the wild without any harm.
Eagle Released at Letchworth State Park (Livingston County)
On June 6, a rehabilitated bald eagle took to the skies over Letchworth State Park after being found injured at the park several months ago. On Dec. 14, 2019, New York State Park Police requested assistance from ECOs Josh Crain and Ron Gross to capture the injured eagle. Once captured, the officers transferred the eagle to Cornell University for evaluation where experts determined it needed surgery, including placement of a pin in its wing. After surgery, the eagle was transferred to Messenger Woods Wildlife Care and Education Center, where it underwent extensive rehabilitation in a 165-foot flight cage until ready for release back at Letchworth.
Closed Case: Tampering with Diesel Emissions
In April 2020, investigators and staff from DEC’s Division of Air initiated an investigation into an air quality complaint originating from an online ad listing a 2010 Ford F350 XLT complete with aftermarket devices alleged to render the emissions equipment inoperable. DEC Bureau of Environmental Crimes investigators posed as potential buyers and set up a time with the seller to inspect the vehicle. The officers found obvious signs of tampering, as the diesel particulate filter had been removed and the exhaust had been straight-piped. The owner explained that he used an aftermarket tuner to bypass any system alerts due to the missing equipment. This tuner would allow the vehicle to continue to operate without a check engine light or going into a limp/default mode. Investigators charged the man with offering a vehicle for sale with non-compliant vehicle emission equipment, an unclassified misdemeanor, and for operating a diesel vehicle with tampered vehicle emission equipment, a violation. The defendant submitted the vehicle for a follow-up inspection and provided paperwork reflecting $2,500 in repair work to restore the truck to the original manufactured specifications. The defendant pleaded guilty to the violation of operating a diesel vehicle with tampered equipment, receiving a $150 fine plus $75 surcharge.
Closed Case: Abandoned Oil Well Investigation
Earlier this year, an investigation conducted by DEC BECI investigators and ECOs concluded in an Order on Consent for multiple violations of DEC’s oil and gas well regulations by a natural gas exploration and production company based in Shinglehouse, Pa. The case began after investigators and officers conducted an inspection at multiple crude oil wells owned and operated by Plants and Goodwin Inc. DEC cited 19 offenses at seven different wells for violations of state regulations relating to oil well operations and reporting. The investigation also revealed an offense of the State Pollution Discharge Elimination System permit issued to Plants and Goodwin Inc. DEC issued an Order on Consent wherein the responsible party was brought into compliance with a $5,000 penalty.
On June 21, ECO Brian Willson responded to a call from concerned citizens reporting ducklings trapped in a storm drain in Schenectady. ECO Willson, with help from several citizens, removed the ducklings from the drain. The ducklings were then reunited with their mother and safely relocated to the Schenectady Central Park pond.
Bear Takes Nap and Then Takes Off
(St. Lawrence County)
On June 24, a bear took a nap in a maple tree on Hamilton Street in Potsdam, but it didn’t stay long. The small bear left the tree on its own later in the evening. ECOs and DEC Wildlife staff monitored the situation to ensure the bear’s safety and that of the small crowd that gathered. This is a great example of how residents should respond if a bear comes into their community. If left alone and given the opportunity, nearly all bears that wander into urban or suburban areas will leave as quickly and quietly as they appear, without serious conflict or a need for physical removal. For more information, visit DEC webpages on black bears and reducing bear-human conflicts.
On July 1, ECO Russell Fetterman received a call reporting a fawn trapped in a drainage canal in the city of Oneonta. ECO Fetterman contacted Wildlife Response Team member ECO Dustin Osborne for assistance. The ECOs located the fawn trapped in an eight-foot drainage canal running through Oneonta. The animal was unable to get out of the canal and return to its mother. Retired Oneonta Police Officer Steven Havens arrived on scene to assist the ECOs rescuing the fawn. The officers worked together and used a tarp to wrangle the fawn in the drainage before carrying it out and safely returning it to its mother.
Closed Case: Illegal Disposal of Solid Waste
An Illegal Disposal of Solid Waste case in Ulster County recently concluded after all responsible parties were brought to justice. In May 2017, DEC Solid Waste Task Force members observed trucks disposing waste at a residence in the town of Rochester. ECOs followed dump trucks filled with debris from an illegal construction and demolition processing facility on Long Island, and witnessed the trucks dumping large quantities at a private residence. ECOs pulled the trucks over and called in Region 3 Bureau of Environmental Crimes Investigators (BECI) and staff from DEC’s Division of Materials Management (DMM) to assist. While DMM staff collected samples from the debris piles, the ECOs searched the premises, conducted interviews, and arrested the dump truck drivers and charged them with Unlawful Disposal of Solid Waste in excess of 10 cubic yards, a Class B misdemeanor. All drivers later pleaded guilty to lesser charges and each paid a $1,500 fine. Environmental sample results discovered the debris contained significant amounts of coal ash and slag, which is only permitted at licensed landfills. In addition, chemical analysis showed the presence of acutely hazardous substances that violated Environmental Conservation Law. Ultimately, the trucking company involved, Modern Leasing Inc., operating as Dump Masters Services, was charged with Endangering Public Health, Safety and the Environment, a felony, and multiple misdemeanor counts of Unlawful Disposal of Solid Waste in excess of 70 cubic yards and 10 cubic yards. Modern Leasing Inc. recently pleaded guilty to the felony charge and two counts of Unlawful Disposal of Solid Waste and was ordered to pay the maximum fine for each, totaling $112,500.
Missing Man Located by ECO
On June 16, ECO Lucas Palmateer responded to a 911 call in the town of Coxsackie reporting a man missing from an assisted living facility. ECO Palmateer learned that the man is interested in railroads and headed to a location near a set of railroad tracks where the subject had been seen walking. ECO Palmateer used binoculars to survey the area and spotted the man near a wood line. The ECO made contact with the man and ensured he was returned to the facility in good health.