(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.)
Drug arrest at Vernooy Kill State Forest
On July 27, ECOs Jason Smith and Lucas Palmateer were on ATV patrol in Wawarsing along a dirt road bordering Vernooy Kill State Forest when they noticed a strong smell of marijuana in the air. Two vehicles were parked alongside the road, and as the ECOs got off their ATVs, two subjects exited the woods and approached the officers. The men stated that they were in town from Pennsylvania and would be playing a show with their band in New Paltz later that evening. They told the officers that they were setting up a campsite in the woods with their bandmates and showed the ECOs the location. The ECOs asked the subjects about the odor of marijuana and one of the subjects produced a marijuana cigarette from his pocket. Unconvinced that all of the drugs had been brought forward, the ECOs asked to search one of the subjects’ backpacks. After gaining consent, Palmateer located additional marijuana and multiple LSD tablets. The ECOs arrested the subject, charging him with criminal possession of a controlled substance and unlawful possession of marijuana. He was processed at the Ellenville State Police barracks and arraigned in Rochester Town Court.
The Greedy Hunters Club
On Nov. 30, ECO Scott Pierce encountered a group of hunters in the Shaker Mountain Wild Forest after hearing several gunshots. Pierce headed into the woods and up a trail, where he found one hunter a short distance away. The hunter had already filled his regular season deer tag and Pierce called Forest Ranger Michael Thompson to stay with the hunter while he continued to investigate. ECO Jason Hilliard and Forest Ranger Andrew Lewis joined the investigation. Thompson alerted the group that five hunters had just come out to his location dragging a large buck. Of the six hunters, four had already filled their regular season buck tags. Each hunter without valid deer tags claimed to be legally hunting bear, although they were working together to drive deer. The buck had been tagged by one of the hunters with a valid regular season tag. Hilliard followed the trail back to its source and found a shell casing and a set of distinct boot tracks. The tracks matched up to one of the hunters without a valid deer tag. Faced with the evidence, the hunter admitted that he had shot the deer and used another hunter’s tag. The deer was seized and the shooter charged with taking deer in excess of the season limit. One hunter was charged with lending deer tags to another, and the three hunters without valid deer tags were charged with hunting deer without a valid license.
On Oct. 3, members of DEC’s Division of Law Enforcement Marine Enforcement Unit and Eastern Long Island sector officers documented a large-scale aquaculture operation in Meetinghouse Creek in the town of Riverhead. The subjects were storing oysters in uncertified waters without a permit. ECOs Ike Bobseine, Jordan Doroski, Robert McCabe, Evan Laczi and Jeremy Eastwood under the supervision of Lt. Sean Reilly, interviewed the owner of the business, documented evidence, and seized the shellfish in place. Approximately 400 bushels of oysters were stored around docks in the creek, which has been documented in the past by DEC’s Division of Marine Resources to contain shellfish with parasitic shellfish poisoning. Due to the considerable risk to public safety, shellfish from the business were embargoed from retail stores and the shellfish at the facility were not allowed to be used for consumption. The enforcement case was handled administratively and by early December, a settlement that included a substantial fine and forfeiture of the oysters was completed. The oysters were transplanted into uncertified waters to prevent harvest for commercial sale. On Dec. 3, ECOs supervised and assisted the aquaculture business with transplanting the oysters into the bay.
One buck too many
On Dec. 3, ECO Jeannette Bastedo responded to a complaint of a man shooting a buck with a rifle between two houses in a residential area in the town of Esopus. The man had tracked a deer shot and wounded by his daughter several hours earlier. After his daughter stopped hunting to return to work, the father located the deer between two houses about 30 yards apart. The man mistakenly thought it would be acceptable to shoot the deer with his 30-06 caliber rifle in this location. The father had already taken a buck during the regular deer season, making this deer his second. He was issued tickets returnable to Esopus Town Court for discharging a firearm within 500 feet of a dwelling, taking over the limit of antlered deer, and illegal taking of deer. The deer was seized and donated.
Inter-agency marine operation
(New York Harbor)
On Dec. 4, Lt. Eric Dowling attended a meeting regarding joint operations with the United States Coast Guard, New Jersey Fish & Wildlife and the National Marine Fisheries Service. The operation was designed to foster information sharing and joint patrol operations while the agencies police the same water. Two days later, the benefits of the meeting were quickly recognized when, while on boat patrol in Jamaica Bay, ECO Waldemar Auguscinski recognized a vessel that NJFW had taken enforcement action against only one month earlier. ECOs were joined by USCG officers and boarded the vessel. The officers found 24 undersized blackfish and no registration number properly displayed. Four summonses were written for over the legal limit and undersized blackfish, as well as a violation written by the Coast Guard for a lack of registration numbers.
Trust your gut (pile)
On Dec. 8, ECO Lucas Palmateer received an anonymous call of an untagged deer laying across the back of an ATV in a driveway in the town of Hurley. At the home, Palmateer observed an 8-point buck draped over the back of the ATV. A quick check showed that the deer had been properly tagged. Palmateer then learned the hunter had shot the deer from a ground blind, approximately a half mile into the woods. While checking out the ground blind, Palmateer noticed an area in front of the blind that had been freshly torn up. A closer inspection revealed corn kernels on the ground. The officer then located the deer’s gut pile, cut open the stomach, and found that it was full of fresh corn. The hunter admitted to putting out bait at the location and was charged with hunting deer over pre-established bait and illegal taking of deer. The deer was confiscated and donated, and the tickets were returnable to Hurley Town Court.
Deer through the ice
On Dec. 9, ECO Jim Cranker received a call from the Saranac Lake Police Department that a deer fell through the ice on Lake Flower in the village of Saranac Lake. Due to the location of the deer in a populated area near a busy roadway, the officers were concerned that well-intentioned civilians might endanger themselves attempting to rescue the deer. With trained ice rescue members, the Saranac Lake Volunteer Fire Department used its air boat to safely reach the exhausted deer and brought her to DEC’s Lake Flower Boat Launch. Cranker and Forest Ranger Lt. Julie Harjung, along with other first responders, treated the doe by wrapping her in blankets with hot water bottles in an attempt to re-warm her body. Despite these efforts, the deer died later that evening. The public is reminded to never attempt to rescue animals that have fallen through the ice, as unpredictable ice and freezing water temperatures pose a serious danger to any would-be rescuer.
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