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Turtle rescuer in trouble with DEC

By Howard B. Owens

CORRECTION: It turns out there are two people from Attica named John Volpe who rescue turtles. There is John P. Volpe, who was arrested, and John K. Volpe, who is the person we met on Creek Road in 2012. We apologize to John K. Volpe and his family for the mistaken identity.

We met John Volpe two years ago after spotting a snapping turtle trying to cross Creek Road by Baskin Livestock.

Now Volpe is in quite a bit of trouble with the Department of Environmental Conservation for his collection of turtles and birds of prey.

When we met Volpe previously, he had stopped his car on Creek Road to carry the turtle out of the road. A short time later, Volpe's wife arrived and the couple took the turtle to their place in Attica.

Volpe explained to me that he and his father often rescue turtles. He said they would take the turtle home, ensure she (or he) is healthy. If healthy, and a female, they would hold her until she laid her eggs, then release her back into the wild, then raise the babies.

"Turtles mean a lot to us," said Volpe, who is Native American.

He is now facing state charges on alleged unlicensed possession of more than 100 live native turtles, including one live wood turtle, which is currently listed as a "species of special concern" in New York State.

Volpe is also accused of having numerous live birds that require a license to possess, including screech owls, great horned owls, a snowy owl, red-tailed hawks, turkey vultures, gulls, a blue heron and numerous other birds.

He was also allegedly found to possess taxidermy mounts of more than a dozen species of protected birds of prey including: screech owls, great-horned owls, snowy owls, barred owls, saw-whet owls, red-tailed hawks, Cooper's hawks, sharp-shinned hawks, kestrels and turkey vultures.

The  62-year-old also faces possible federal charges for taxidermy work on migratory waterfowl as well as possessing bald and golden eagle mounts and parts.

Volpe was allegedly found in possession in 2005 of two birds of prey. The birds were placed in a licensed facility, according to the DEC, and Volpe was given a chance to obtain a property license, but did not complete the process, the DEC said.

Scott Birkby

So let me get this straight. Our wonderful state can't properly fund education for our children, but they seem to have unlimited resources to track down and prosecute people who illegally possess turtles. What's wrong with this picture?

Mar 7, 2014, 9:16am Permalink
Jason Crater

I see no evidence of "unlimited resources." Sounds like a DEC officer followed up on a lead and found this guy in possession of lots of animals that he shouldn't have. AKA, sounds like a DEC officer was doing his job.

Mar 7, 2014, 9:30am Permalink
tim raines

Why did the turtle cross the road? Because he didn't have a tunnel to go thru.

In 2010 The Fed Gov't spent $3.4 million to build a 13' long tunnel under Rt 27 in Lake Jackson Fla for turtles to pass thru.

And we thought that our government spent money wisely and only chickens crossed the road..........

Mar 7, 2014, 10:03am Permalink
Mark Taggett

The man is a Native American with a love for wildlife. Holding these animals to protect them, not harm them. He's only in deep doo doo because he didn't PAY the State for a permit to hold most of them. What a joke. How about our DEC officers round up the dead animal carcasses and miscellaneous car parts strewn along the sides of the roads now that the snow is melting - THAT'S PROTECTING OUR ENVIRONMENT! To me, that is time better spent! (I am NOT of native american decent by the way...)

Mar 7, 2014, 9:56am Permalink
Christopher Putnam

you didnt pay the fee and respect my authority by getting a license. now your a bad guy, and your going to have a state and federal criminal record for helping wildlife.

when are we going to stop taking this shit from out overbearing, useless, wasteful government?

Mar 7, 2014, 10:36am Permalink
Beth Kinsley

I'm not sure he was merely protecting these animals:

"He was also allegedly found to possess taxidermy mounts of more than a dozen species of protected birds of prey including; screech owls, great-horned owls, snowy owls, barred owls, saw-whet owls, red-tailed hawks, coopers hawks, sharp-shinned hawks, kestrels and turkey vultures."

Mar 7, 2014, 12:08pm Permalink
C. M. Barons

I don't know John Volpe. I am not familiar with his motivations or his skill-level regarding wild animal care. I do know that the regulations applicable to keeping certain wild species are designed to protect wild animals from being exploited by exotic species traders and maintain a standard of expertise in caring for and raising protected species.

This story does not provide sufficient depth to evaluate John's level of expertise. One cannot make assumptions about his native heritage to assess such skills. Indeed his heart may be in the right place... Then-again, one might question the relationship between John's collecting protected species and his taxidermy business. There is a distinct lack of evidence to be drawing any conclusions- other than that the authorities are conducting an investigation.

I would suggest that the license to possess and care for exotic species is not a money-grab. I would also suggest that licensed care-givers are probably valued by the DEC, because they provide options to otherwise costly facilities to board and care for injured or roaming animals.

The sad end to the Catskill Game Farm illustrates the drawbacks to well-intentioned amateurs raising wild animals.…

Mar 7, 2014, 12:37pm Permalink
Doug Yeomans

Leave the guy alone. I like the POV of Chris Putnam and Mark Taggett.

Last year I hit a turkey vulture with the motorcycle. It slammed through the wind screen and hit me in the face and the chest. The cost of replacing the wind screen, the mounting brakets and other damage was about $720. I called the DEC in Avon to report that I'd killed a turkey vulture and they guy on the other end of the line just laughed. He said they were not even remotely concerned.

Two years ago I hit a deer with my 2003 Silverado at the corner of 237 and Randall Rd. Total cost of that mishap was in excess of

If the state claims ownership and domain over the wildlife and natural resources, I should be able to bill them for damages that their property causes, correct? My insurance company cut me a check for both incidents, but the state should be held accountable if they want to control the playing field.

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Mar 7, 2014, 1:03pm Permalink
Doug Yeomans

One year, some kind of hawk flew into a window at my dad's house (my dad is no longer among us so don't go looking for him DEC) and he wanted to have it mounted because it was such a beautiful bird. From what I understand, the taxidermist was not happy and told my father to just throw it into the woods somewhere.

Mar 7, 2014, 1:01pm Permalink
Doug Yeomans

C.M., while true that the laws were enacted in order to protect various species, if the possession of those species doesn't meet the intended criminality of that law, then conviction shouldn't be pursued, correct? It's easy to create a blanket law, but to fairly apply the law with intelligence and common sense is a whole other matter.

As an example, the sale of black bear gallbladders is illegal. If I legally take a black bear in NY state, why shouldn't I be able to sell that bladder, the paws, or any other part of the bear deemed illegal to sell?

Mar 7, 2014, 1:17pm Permalink
C. M. Barons

The hunting of wildlife by licensed and permitted means (during season, correct permit, designated area) controls the population of protected species. The market for organs, exotic plants and animals encourages illicit killing and selling of protected species. Most of the endangered species on the planet are endangered because of loss of habitat. Exacerbating the plummeting populations of species such as rhinoceros are illegal markets for organs and other parts of rare animals deemed medicinal or otherwise valuable. Your black bear was taken legally. Selling parts of that bear perpetuates a market that endangers rare animals by promoting poaching and black market activity which amounts to a billion-dollar business world-wide.

As for Turkey Vultures, they are protected under federal law as a migratory bird. They are not considered endangered; their numbers are the highest of the carrion feeders.

The logic behind billing NYS for deer collision damage bears as much validity as billing the LeRoy Sportsman's Club for failing to harvest the deer you hit.

Mar 7, 2014, 3:46pm Permalink
cj sruger

Way to get this guy arrested Howard. pretty soon nobody will be able to do anythig without breaking some law. only the government can protect these animals porperly, not some native american with no proper government training. Government is the answer to everything. dont question them, vote D on election day, (or im sure someone will for you, and soon you wont even need to be a citizen of this country or speak the language to vote) and shut up.

Seagulls are also federaly protected, not sure why, they are the biggest craphole bird around. Take a drive by Baskin live stock or any other farm with tons of animal crap and there are hundreds of them. but kill one and potentialy go to fed prison

Mar 7, 2014, 5:08pm Permalink
Howard B. Owens

How did I get him arrested?

First, as the correction noted, the guy I covered turns out not to be the same guy arrested (just same name, same town, same hobby); second, the guy who was arrested had come to the attention of the DEC in 2005, three years before I even came to Batavia. How am I responsible for that?

Mar 7, 2014, 5:11pm Permalink
Kyle Couchman

LOL theres that element again, taking any chance they can to bash on Howard. No matter how tenuous the reach they always try. Scapegoating usually backfires CJ remember that.

Mar 7, 2014, 5:38pm Permalink
Rob Krzewinski

Is anyone else fascinated that there are TWO guys named John Volpe that BOTH rescue turtles in Attica??? How has nobody mentioned this?!?!

Mar 7, 2014, 5:43pm Permalink
C. M. Barons

While we're on the subject... The 18 foot long Burmese pythons populating the Florida Everglades didn't discover that habitat by natural design. They are there because several wildlife owners didn't know what to do with their pet when it outgrew the terrarium. The invasive species that are wreaking havoc on our trees, fish populations, animal populations, and ability to enjoy the outdoors are all the result of poor judgment. Suggesting that government has no business interceding in unschooled (unrestricted) environmental meddling is a half-baked application of liberty. Most people are aware of the Dutch Elm Disease that wiped-out the Elm trees a generation or more ago. Most people are likely also aware of the Japanese Beetle and Emerald Ash Tree Borer. There is now a threat from the Asian Long Horn Beetle that attacks Oaks and Maples. Introduced in Texas from shipments of lumber, the Long Horn Beetle could wipe out native Oaks and Maples, including Sugar Maples, ending the already declining production of maple syrup. Add to that the European Water Chestnut and Asian Carp that escaped ornamental gardens and now threaten lakes and streams, the Zebra Mussels, Viral hemorrhagic septicemia... Climate change, toxic runoff and infiltration of herbicides, pesticides, fracking chemicals, oil spills, bee die-offs. Which straw breaks the camels back?

Mar 7, 2014, 5:59pm Permalink
Julie Morales

Oh, is it “love” that motivates people to make and display ghoulish trophies of animal corpses?

I don’t see anything in the linked article or this one that indicates turtles or anything else was “rescued” by John P. Volpe.

190 violations….that’s a lot of “rescuing.”

Mar 7, 2014, 6:28pm Permalink
cj sruger

which ones killed the dinasaours? and the mastadon? oh wait it was climate change, right? but not that climate change, didnt it used to be called global warming or somehting... im confused.

Mar 7, 2014, 8:13pm Permalink
Jason Fetterly

I personally know BOTH John Volpe's (father and son) and they are both awesome guys. I have spent a great deal more time with the elder, in part because I am part Native American. He was one of the more instrumental people in bringing knowledge and understanding to me. He is incredibly in tune with nature, and seeks only to HELP wildlife. All of the stuffed/mounted animals that I was aware of were found dead by himself or others. They were not hunted. He only wanted to preserve them for their beauty and to use as teaching tools. As for the wildlife he was in possession of, again, he wanted only to HELP them. As we all know, the DEC would have certainly stepped in and provided each and every one of them with the help and care they needed and ensured their survival, right? Not so likely. Even if they did, it would have been with taxpayer dollars. John did all of this out of his own pocket. That's right folks, not with your money, with HIS. He loves nature, more than anyone I know. The fact that the DEC has targeted him and his efforts to preserve our creatures for future generations disgusts me. This is one of those situations where someone needs a swift kick in the face in order to realize they have just condemned countless animals to die, for absolutely no reason, allowing species to dwindle closer and closer to being void. But instead, their bosses will praise them and release reports in the future crying about how much closer these animals are to being non-existent. As for the person on here targeting Howard, you're just as much an ignorant moron as the DEC officials going after John. In other words, please, just shut up before you infect the rest of us with stupid.

Mar 12, 2014, 9:03am Permalink
Jason Fetterly

John is highly skilled, both in care and taxidermy. He will not simply take the life of an animal needlessly in order to gain a "project" to work on. All of the animals he has done work on were found dead, to the best of my knowledge. Any animal he finds alive and rescues, continues to be as such, very much alive.

Mar 12, 2014, 9:12am Permalink

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