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For Release: Wednesday, December 14, 2016

DEC Environmental Conservation Officer Highlights

ECO Actions for Late November-Early December

New York State Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) 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 across the state responded to 25,000 calls and issued 22,000 tickets for crimes ranging from deer poaching to corporate toxic dumping and illegal mining, black market pet trade, and excessive emissions violations.

"From Montauk Point to Mount Marcy, from Brooklyn to Buffalo, the ECOs patrolling 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 work long and arduous hours, both deep in our remote wildernesses and in the tight confines of our urban landscapes. Although they don't receive much public fanfare, the work of our ECOs is critical to achieving DEC's mission to protect and enhance our environment."

Recent missions carried out by ECOs include:

Poachers in the Dark - Ontario County

Late in the afternoon on Nov. 23, ECO Shawn Dussault received a call from a concerned hunter. The caller had observed two hunters in a hedgerow between two fields after sunset. The caller expressed concern for possible illegal activity because a group of deer was headed toward the two hunters. ECO Dussault asked the caller to remain at the scene. Moments later, almost 40 minutes past sunset, a shot rang out. When ECO Dussault arrived at the scene, he went down the hedgerow and was able to make out two dark spots in the field, huddled close to the ground. ECO Dussault turned on his flashlight and observed two males gutting out a doe. ECO Dussault recovered and unloaded the men's firearms and took possession of all licenses and tags. The shooter and accomplice were charged with hunting after hours, taking an antlerless deer without a permit, and numerous other ECL charges.

Thanksgiving Day Shellfish - Queens County

On Thanksgiving Day, Nov. 24, ECOs Lucas Palmateer and Zachariah Brown were on shore patrol while ECOs Christopher Macropoulos and Waldemar Auguscinski were on boat patrol at Broad Channel American Beach. Five subjects were seen taking shellfish from uncertified waters, which are waters that are not clean enough to permit harvesting of shellfish for human consumption. Shellfish from these waters can cause illness and/or jeopardize New York's commercial shellfish industry. The ECOs issued tickets to four of the subjects, seized approximately 200 hard-shelled clams, 75 mussels, and 10 soft-shelled clams and released them back to state waters.

ECOs with the illegally harvested shellfish.
ECOs with the illegally harvested shellfish.

Illegal Deer - Saratoga County

On Thanksgiving Day, Nov. 24, ECO Steve Shaw responded to an anonymous complaint that a deer had been shot within 500 feet of a residence in violation of the ECL. Upon arrival, he located an antlered deer hanging in a tree. He interviewed the man who had shot the deer, but the individual denied shooting near any houses. Two days later, ECO Shaw returned with ECO Mark Klein and in the course of interviewing the man they noticed a group of turkeys unusually congregating around one spot on the property. Closer inspection revealed a block of salt and a pile of corn. When pressed further, the man confessed that he had shot the buck at that spot. He was charged with hunting over bait, placing a salt block on lands inhabited by deer, and illegally taking big game. The deer was seized and donated to the Venison Donation Program, which provides needy families with venison processed by local deer butchers.

Those Legs - Dutchess County

On Nov. 26, ECO Robert Hodor was on patrol when he observed deer legs sticking out of the bed of a truck. He spoke to the driver, who stated he was "transporting the deer for his mother," and that he could not "get those damn legs to stay down." When asked for a consignment note required by law when the taker of the deer is not present, he stated he did not have one. ECO Hodor then said he was calling the man's mother to ask about the deer she had shot. The man then admitted that he had shot the deer and put his mother's tag on it. He was issued tickets for possessing the tags of another hunter and for illegally taking a deer. The cases are pending in the Town of Clinton Court.

I Did It For My Kid - Putnam County

On Nov. 24, ECO Anthony Drahms received an illegal deer complaint that a man shot a buck from the road using a shotgun. The caller gave a description of the vehicle, the man, his firearm, and the deer, which was a "wide six-pointer without brow tines." ECO Craig Tompkins responded to assist in the investigation at the scene, where the ECOs located a spent 20-guage shotgun shell, two sets of footprints, and evidence that a deer had been dragged. The ECOs then drove to the suspect's house and saw a buck matching the description. After a short interview the man confessed but was adamant that he did not shoot from the road. The ECOs seized the illegal buck and issued the man tickets for discharging a firearm within 500 feet of a residence, hunting with a shotgun in an archery-only area, illegally taking a deer, and improperly tagging a deer. When asked why he did it, the man stated, "My son thought it was a big buck. I did it for my kid."

ECO Drahms with the illegally taken deer.
ECO Drahms with the illegally taken deer.

Endangered Species Sting - New York County

On Sunday Dec. 4, Region 2 investigators had just wrapped up an undercover assignment and were walking the streets of lower Manhattan when they came upon an outdoor antiques flea market on West 25th Street. Of the 50 vendors at the flea market, six were found attempting to illegally sell items made from protected wildlife. Five vendors were displaying items carved from elephant ivory and one vendor was selling items made from leopard hide. Investigators acting in an undercover capacity confirmed prices of the illegal pieces and immediately called surrounding uniform members in plainclothes to assist. The team successfully executed multiple simultaneous buy busts. In the end, six defendants were charged with a total of 14 criminal summonses related to the illegal commercialization of protected wildlife, two of which were misdemeanor level. All of the illegal items were seized as evidence. The violators are due to appear in Manhattan Criminal Court later this month to face charges. Elephants and leopards are federally listed as endangered species and their commercialization is banned in New York State, unless the items qualify for an exemption under the law and the owner acquires a DEC license to sell.

ECOs with items they found in an endangered species sting.
Pictured from left to right: Lt. Jesse Paluch (blurred),
ECO Evan McFee, ECO Jonathon Walraven, Inv. Edward Piwko,
ECO Spencer Noyes, ECO Adam Johnson, and ECO Paul Pasciak.

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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