Wednesday, January 9, was National Law Enforcement Appreciation Day. It reminds us to thank all law enforcement officers for the risks they take in our protection. I would like to take a moment to thank them all for the dangerous work they do. Included in that list of officers that deserve our thanks, are the highly trained, dedicated professionals; the Environmental Conservation Officers (ECOs) of DEC’s Division of Law Enforcement.
I for one, appreciate their commitment to protecting our fish, wildlife and natural resources as they protect us in the more traditional sense in the fulfillment of their oath and unique mission. They put their lives on the line every day in that pursuit as evidenced by the shooting of ECO James Davies two years ago while responding to a call of shooting deer at night in Columbia County. I’m happy to report ECO Davies has been back on the job, although he still faces a long road to recovery from the physical trauma of being shot through the hip with a high-powered rifle.
ECOs were busy during the 2018 deer season in Region 4. The 20 ECOs currently assigned to the region wrote over 600 tickets and 10 warnings during deer season this year alone. Over half of the criminal charges were misdemeanor wildlife crimes which include more serious offenses like deer jacking and the illegal use of firearms to take game.
Region 4 is comprised of nine counties including those within the Capitol District. It stretches from the Massachusetts and Vermont borders in the east, all the way to Pennsylvania in the west and includes, Columbia, Rensselaer, Greene, Albany, Schenectady, Montgomery, Otsego, Schoharie and Delaware Counties.
That’s a lot of territory to cover with just 20 officers. There are currently four vacant ECO positions in the region. One is right here in Greene County due to the transfer of ECO Sean Dewey to a sector in the Adirondacks. Another is in Schoharie County and is due to the retirement of K9 Technical Sergeant Keith Isles. I wish them both success as they move on to a new chapter in their professional lives. The vacancies, though, leave us with nearly 20 percent less coverage in the region.
Despite this, ECOs had a good number of quality arrests with over 100 deer and three turkeys seized throughout the region this past season deer season. The deer decoy, or “Robo Deer” as he’s come to be known, despite being shot a number of times by unsuspecting road hunters, will survive to see another season. Deer decoys are used to combat chronic road hunting where poachers ride the roads and shoot deer from the comfort and warmth of their vehicles. This unsafe and illegal practice, although clearly not hunting, gives hunters a black eye. It should be distinguished from true deer hunting where hunters take to the woods in a variety of inclement weather to legally pursue their quarry.
One local case of road hunting this past deer season is currently being prosecuted in Greene County. It was made possible by the quick thinking and actions of a local witness combined with a quick response from ECO Mike Arp. On December 2nd, the witness found a dead doe in a field with what looked like an arrow in it. He then later noticed a vehicle go back to the field after dark and cut its lights out. The witness got a plate number and called ECO Arp. Officer Arp located the subject and the deer and determined it was shot in the neck with a crossbow by the subject from his vehicle.
The subject was charged with discharging a crossbow from a public highway, possessing a loaded crossbow in a motor vehicle, taking wildlife from a public highway, taking wildlife from a motor vehicle and taking a doe deer without a valid DMP. He faces over $4,000 in fines and surcharges in addition to jail time and revocation of his hunting privileges. All charges are currently pending in the Durham Town Court. The deer, like the 99 others seized by R4 ECOs this year, was donated for distribution through the venison donation program.
All in all, I think our Region 4 ECOs have earned our appreciation, not only on January 9th but every day of the year.
Happy Hunting, Fishing and Trapping in 2019!
Remember to report poaching violations by calling 1-844-DEC-ECOS.
News and Notes
Fur Buyer Coming to Shooters Sports in Columbia County
Joe Nastke of Shooters Sports in Valatie announced there will be a fur buyer buying furs at the store every second Saturday from January through April from 10 a.m.-2 p.m. The dates are Jan. 12, Feb. 9, March 9th, and April 13th. Shooters Sports is located at 3067 Main Street in Valatie.
The Ghent Sportsmen’s Club in conjunction with the Columbia County Sheriff’s Office is conducting a free Snowmobile Safety Class on Jan. 19 from 8 a.m.-4 p.m. at the club’s facility on County Route 9 in Ghent. Lunch will be provided. To sign up, call Jim Bertram at 518-965-3971.
Free Fishing Instruction at Field & Stream
“Ice Fishing 101” is offered on Jan. 15 from 6:30-8:30 p.m.
“Fishing 101” will be presented on Tuesday, Feb. 5 from 6:30-8:30 p.m.
“Crossbow 101” will be offered for the first time on Thursday Feb. 7 from 6:30 t0 8:30 p.m.
*All classes are free and will be conducted at the Field & Stream Latham store on Troy-Schenectady Road.
*To sign up for the free classes, call the store at 518-785-3270.
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