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For Release: Wednesday, July 6, 2016

DEC Environmental Conservation Officer Highlights

ECO Actions for Mid-June

New York State Department of Environmental Conservation Environmental Conservation Officers (ECOs) enforce the 71 Chapters of NY Environmental Conservation Law, protecting fish and wildlife and preserving environmental quality across New York.

In 2015, the 268 ECOs based across the state responded to 25,000 calls and issued 22,000 tickets for crimes ranging from deer poaching to corporate toxic dumping to illegal mining, black market pet trade and excessive emissions violations.

"From Montauk Point to Mount Marcy, from Brooklyn to Buffalo, the ECOs who patrol our state are the first line of defense in protecting New York's environment and our natural resources, ensuring that they exist for future generations of New Yorkers," said Commissioner Basil Seggos. "They labor through long and arduous hours, often deep in our remote wildernesses or in the tight confines of our urban landscapes, and without much public fanfare. But their work centers around the most important things we do at the DEC."

Recent missions carried out by ECOs include:

Illegal Burning Complaint in December Leads to a Litany of Charges in June - Washington County
On December 27, 2015, ECO Matt Krug responded to a complaint of illegal open burning in the town of Argyle. A local contractor was burning construction and demolition material from several cabins he was under contract to demolish along Cossayuna Lake. One of the employees of the contractor also matched the description of a woman that had an active Order of Protection against the contractor. The woman gave the officer a false name and discreetly left the location, although ECO Krug was quickly able to determine her true identity. A few days later, on January 2, ECOs Krug, Steve Shaw and Tom Wensley located both the contractor and the employee following each other in two separate vehicles. The ECOs stopped the vehicles and arrested both individuals. The contractor was charged Criminal Contempt of Court, Aggravated Unlicensed Operation of a Motor Vehicle and Unlawful Possession of Marijuana. The employee was charged with False Personation and Operating a Commercial Vehicle without a commercial driver's license. On Friday, June 10, the contractor plead guilty to the felony Criminal Contempt and lesser charges in Washington County Court, however his sentencing was postponed for 60 days. When he left the court, a Washington County Sheriff's Department Investigator observed the contractor getting into a vehicle with the same woman that still had an active Order of Protection against him. The Investigator conducted a traffic stop and the male subject fled the scene on foot. An arrest warrant was subsequently issued for a new Criminal Contempt of Court charge. Multiple agencies were involved in the search for the contractor, who was located and arrested in Vermont on June 19. He now faces multiple new charges in addition to awaiting sentencing on his previous convictions.

Illegal Goose Hunting - Tompkins County
On the evening of June 16, ECOs Tim Machnica and Ozzie Eisenberg responded to a complaint that two individuals killed two Canada geese and wounded a third goose on a private pond in the town of Dryden. The complainants were able to provide a good description of the two subjects, who had fled to a nearby farm when confronted. The ECOs located the two dead geese and found a third that had been tied to a small sapling. The third goose swam away uninjured as soon as the ECOS untied it. They also found numerous footprints in the mud leading to a pellet gun. With the assistance of the neighboring farm owner, ECOs Machnica and Eisenberg were able to locate and identify the men involved in shooting the geese, both seasonal workers from Central America. Both subjects were charged with Taking Canada Geese During the Closed Season and Unlawful Taking of Wildlife.

Drug Activity at Fishing Access Site - Suffolk County
On June 18, ECO Ron Gross was patrolling for fishing activity in the town of Islip and stopped at Lake Ronkonkoma fishing access site to talk to some local fishermen. As he entered the parking lot, ECO Gross noticed a suspicious vehicle with two individuals inside. The site is for boating and fishing access only and the pair did not appear to have any fishing equipment. ECO Gross interviewed the two individuals and noticed a strong odor of marijuana coming from inside the vehicle. Upon a search of the vehicle, ECO Gross found a large bag of marijuana, a quantity of methamphetamine and a scale. The driver was arrested and charged with Criminal Possession of Marijuana in the 5th degree, Criminal Possession of a Controlled Substance in the 7th degree and Criminal Possession of Drug Paraphernalia in the 2nd degree. Both the driver and the passenger were also charged with Use of a Fishing Access Site Other Than as Permitted.

A Cry in the Night - Monroe County
In the early morning hours of Saturday, June 18, off-duty Lt. Bruce Hummel was walking at the end of his neighborhood street near a wooded area in the town of Pittsford, when he heard what sounded like someone crying out. As he walked toward the direction of the sound, he heard it again, clearly identifying the voice of a female. Lt. Hummel repeatedly called out asking if someone was in need of assistance, but the calls went unanswered. Earlier that day, the Monroe County Sheriff's Department and a State Police helicopter had been in the area looking for a 64-year-old delusional woman who had been missing for more than a week. Lt. Hummel called the Monroe County Sheriff's dispatch for assistance, and Sheriff's Deputies along with a K-9 unit were able to locate the missing woman in the woods. She was severely dehydrated and was transported by ambulance to an area hospital, where she is expected to make a full recovery.

Father's Day Gift Comes Just in Time - Jefferson County
On Father's Day, June 19, 2016, ECO Shea Mathis received a pair of wildlife handling glove from his family. The gloves came in handy that very night when he responded to the Chaumont Boat Launch for a call of a fox in distress. A fishermen had found a red fox that had gotten its hind legs caught in fishing line and was unable to move. While securing the fox, ECO Mathis found out that the gloves could stand up to a fox bite. ECO Mathis held the fox while one of the fisherman cut the line away from the fox's legs. The fox was freed from the line and released into a nearby wooded lot.

A Black Bear Visits RIT - Monroe County
During the week of June 20th, the DEC's Division of Law Enforcement (DLE) received several calls regarding a young black bear observed roaming through the southern portion of Monroe County. While Monroe County does have many rural areas, it is also home to the City of Rochester and is no place for a bear. Initially the bear managed to curtail his activity to the southern, less-populated areas of the county. But in the early morning hours of Wednesday, June 22, the bear found its way up a tree on the campus of the Rochester Institute of Technology (RIT). ECO Eoin Snowdon responded and advised campus security on measures to monitor the bear's activity at a distance, with the hopes that the bear might exit the area to a more suitable location. By daybreak the next morning, the bear was still in the tree and ECOs Snowdon and Brian Shea, along with DEC wildlife staff responded. A capture net and bounce pad were put in place and the bear was successfully anesthetized and transported to a more appropriate habitat.

If you witness an environmental crime or believe a violation of environmental law occurred please call the DEC Division of Law Enforcement hotline at 1-844-DEC-ECOS (1-844-332-3267).

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