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Post date: June 29 2017

A.G. Schneiderman Announces Convictions Of Sheep Farmer And Overseers For Unlawful Use Of Hazardous Pesticide – Causing Death Of Bald Eagles And Red-Tailed Hawk

 News from Attorney General Eric T. Schneiderman

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
June 29, 2017

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A.G. SCHNEIDERMAN ANNOUNCES CONVICTIONS OF SHEEP FARMER AND OVERSEERS FOR UNLAWFUL USE OF HAZARDOUS PESTICIDE – CAUSING DEATH OF BALD EAGLES AND RED-TAILED HAWK

Sheep Farmer William Wentling And Overseers Illegally Dispersed Carbofuran, Which Killed Three Protected Birds

BATH – Attorney General Eric T. Schneiderman today announced the convictions of Tuscarora sheep farmer William Wentling, 67, and his overseers Eli Byler, 41, and Jonathan Byler, 19, for illegally using an acutely hazardous pesticide and causing the deaths of two bald eagles and a red-tailed hawk.  Wentling was convicted today of one count of Endangering Public Health, Safety, or the Environment in the Fourth Degree and two counts of Unlawful Use of a Restricted Use Pesticide, all unclassified misdemeanors. The Bylers were previously convicted of Endangering Public Health, Safety or the Environment in the Fourth Degree.

Today, Wentling appeared before the Honorable Peter C. Broadstreet in Stuben County Court, where he was arraigned on an indictment. Immediately thereafter, he pleaded guilty to the charges above, and was sentenced to a one-year conditional discharge.

“Ensuring the safety of our state’s protected species is critical to New York’s environment,” Attorney General Schneiderman said. “The illegal use of hazardous pesticides not only killed three protected animals – but it also jeopardized the safety of nearby residents. I will continue working to protect our communities and all who inhabit them.”

In prior proceedings in the Town of Tuscarora Court on September 26, 2016, the Bylers pleaded guilty to Endangering Public Health, Safety, or the Environment in the Fourth Degree and were sentenced to a one-year conditional discharge.

“New York State has been a leader in the restoration and recovery of the bald eagle in the United States,” Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) Commissioner Basil Seggos said. “This crime stands in stark contrast to DEC’s bald eagle efforts over the last several decades and shows blatant disregard for the environment and wildlife. I commend the work of our Environmental Conservation Officers (ECOs) and the Attorney General’s office in bringing this case to fruition.”

Today’s convictions are the result of a joint investigation conducted by the New York State Attorney General’s Office and the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation (“DEC”), in conjunction with the United States Fish and Wildlife Service. Today’s convictions are the result of a joint investigation conducted by the New York State Attorney General’s Office and the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation (“DEC”), in conjunction with the United States Fish and Wildlife Service. In addition to the charges filed by the Attorney General’s Office in this matter, charges were also filed by the United States Attorney’s Office for the Western District of New York. Earlier today, Wentling pleaded guilty in United States District Court, Western District of New York, to violating 16 United States Code 668(a) of the Protection of Bald and Golden Eagles act, a misdemeanor, and was sentenced to two years’ probation and fined $3,500.

According to the felony complaint filed by the Attorney General’s Office and statements made by the prosecutor in court, Wentling operated a sheep farm located in Tuscarora, New York, at which the Bylers were the overseers.  In the late winter and spring of 2015, the Wentling farm had been having problems with hawks killing lambs on the farm.  Wentling instructed the Bylers to stay on top of the bird problems with the sheep, directing them to a jug marked “poison” with a drawing of a skull and cross bones on it. The Bylers then poured the contents of the jug onto sheep carcasses located on the farm. 

In March 2015, DEC investigators executed a search warrant at Wentling’s farm and recovered the jug.  Laboratory analysis determined that the jug contained carbofuran. Pursuant to New York Codes, Rules and Regulations and the Environmental Conservation Law, carbofuran is an acutely hazardous substance and a restricted use pesticide.  It is illegal to knowingly release a substance acutely hazardous to public health, safety, or the environment and to possess or use any restricted use pesticide without a permit.

According to the Attorney General’s complaint, in March and May of 2015, two dead bald eagles were found on a property adjacent to Wentling’s sheep farm. In addition, in April of 2015, one dead red-tailed hawk was found on Wentling’s sheep farm near a sheep carcass. Laboratory analysis determined that the cause of death for the bald eagles and the hawk was carbofuran poisoning. Also, laboratory analysis of soil under the sheep carcass demonstrated the presence of carbofuran.

Bald eagles and red-tailed hawks are protected by the Bald and Golden Eagle Protection Act and the Migratory Bird Treaty Act.

Attorney General Schneiderman remains committed to protecting all who reside in New York, including animals. To that end, in May of 2013, he announced his office’s Animal Protection Initiative, which is aimed at shutting down criminal animal fighting rings, ensuring compliance with New York State's Pet Lemon Law, charging those who abuse or neglect animals, and cracking down on the abuses of so-called “puppy mills” in order to protect the welfare of the animals being sold and the consumers. Just last week, he announced the arrests of 43 individuals after the bust of a Herkimer County-based cockfighting ring. The raid resulted in the seizure of over 50 birds, which were then turned over to the local Humane Society.

Attorney General Schneiderman thanks the New York State Department of Environment and Conservation and the United States Fish and Wildlife Service for their valuable work on this investigation.

The case was prosecuted by Assistant Attorney General Cydney Kelly, with the assistance of Assistant Attorney General Hugh McLean, of the Attorney General’s Criminal Enforcement and Financial Crimes Bureau. The Bureau is led by Bureau Chief Stephanie Swenton. The Division of Criminal Justice is led by Chief Deputy Attorney General Jason Brown.

The Attorney General’s investigation was conducted by Senior Investigator Sandra Migaj, under the supervision of Supervising Investigator Richard Doyle and Deputy Bureau Chief Antoine Karam. The Investigations Division is led by Chief Investigator Dominick Zarrella.