Department of Environmental Conservation

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For Release: Wednesday, January 4, 2017

DEC Environmental Conservation Officer Highlights

ECO Actions for Late-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:

Seized Lobsters Become a Christmas Meal for the Homeless - Queens County

On Dec. 15, ECOs Mary Grose, Zach Brown, John Gates, and Jeff Krueger were performing federal joint enforcements in fish markets in Queens County. While inspecting Skyfoods Mart Inc. in Elmhurst, ECOs discovered undersized lobsters, untagged shellfish, and violations of the Returnable Container Act. A total of 73 undersized lobsters were seized and donated to the Bowery Mission in Manhattan. The volunteers at the Bowery Mission thanked the ECOs and said they would be used for the Christmas Eve meal for the homeless.

ECOs Grose and Brown with Bowery Mission volunteers and the seized lobsters.
ECOs Grose and Brown with Bowery Mission
volunteers and the seized lobsters.

Illegal Buck - Erie County

On Dec. 20, ECO Chuck Wilson responded to a complaint from a citizen who had been walking in Nature View Park on Tonawanda Creek Road in the town of Amherst. The ground was covered with snow and it appeared that a deer had been killed a few feet from the walking trail, dragged through some brush, and brought into the garage of a home bordering the park. ECO Wilson found a broken hunting arrow frozen in the snow nearby and followed the trail to the neighboring property. Upon closer inspection, he found that the area was scattered with corn. A tagged doe deer head sat on top of a five-gallon bucket of deer entrails on a nearby table. The tag indicated that it had been killed in Ontario County on Nov. 19, but not reported through the state Game Harvest Report system. ECO Wilson contacted ECO Mark Mazurkiewicz to assist in the investigation and they interviewed the owner of the adjoining property. He admitted to shooting a large 11-point buck on Dec. 17 with a bow and arrow. ECO Wilson determined that the arrows in the homeowner's quiver were identical to the broken arrow found in Nature View Park. The homeowner admitted to placing corn in his backyard to feed his chickens; the buck had been shot while feeding on the corn. The officers found the 11 point buck, which had not been tagged or processed, hanging in the garage. The homeowner was issued tickets for unlawful killing of a wild deer, hunting deer in an area closed to big game hunting, hunting deer with aid of a pre-established bait pile, failure to follow mandatory tagging requirements, and failure to report a deer harvest as required. The tickets are returnable to the Town of Amherst Court on Jan. 18. The buck was donated to the venison donation program.

ECOs Wilson and Markiewicz with the illegally killed buck.
ECOs Wilson and Markiewicz with the illegally killed buck.

Snowy Owl Rescue - Cattaraugus County

On Dec. 20, ECOs Chris Freeman and Darci Dougherty were traveling along State Rt. 242 in the town of Napoli when they were flagged down by a local farmer. The farmer was frantically trying to keep an injured Snowy Owl from entering the busy road. Because the owl's right wing was broken, it was unable to fly. After several attempts, ECO Freeman was able to capture the distressed owl by covering it with his jacket. The ECOs made arrangements for the owl to be picked up by a licensed wildlife rehabilitator. The owl has since undergone surgery on its broken wing and is currently recovering in the rehabilitator's care.

ECO Freeman with the injured owl.
ECO Freeman with the injured owl.
injured owl.

Christmas Gifts for Families in Need - St. Lawrence County

On Dec. 23, ECO Steve Sherry participated in a program that provides food and gifts to families in need for the Christmas holiday. The program was developed by Mary Ellen Mace from the Brier Hill Fire Department in the town of Morristown. Mrs. Mace worked with the Morristown Central School District and developed a list of children and families likely to have little or no food or gifts on Christmas Day. ECO Sherry assisted with putting together the gift and food baskets and helped deliver them to the families in need. Other agencies involved in the effort include the New York State Police, the St. Lawrence County Sheriff's Department, the Brier Hill Fire Department, and the Morristown Fire Department. At least 62 children from 27 local families received donations from the program.

ECO Sherry delivering donated food and gifts.
ECO Sherry delivering donated food and gifts.

Short Stripers For The Holidays - Bronx County

Early on the morning of Dec. 23, ECOs Chris Macropoulos, Lucas Palmateer, Adam Johnson, Waldemar Auguscinski, and Jeffrey Krueger conducted inspections of seafood markets at the Fulton Fish Market in the Bronx. One facility was found to be in possession of 12 striped bass measuring less than the legal commercial slot size limit of 28 to 38 inches. The owner of the company was issued a criminal summons for possession of undersize striped bass for sale, as well as a notice of violation. The 12 stripers were seized and donated to the Bowery Mission, where the fish were on the menu for Christmas dinner. The Bowery Mission serves hungry and needy individuals in New York City.

Large Seizure of Small Clams - Rockland County

On Dec. 23, Region 3 ECOs Melissa Burgess and Max Nicols conducted a seafood market compliance check at the Restaurant Depot store in Blauvelt. Bags of littleneck clams immediately caught the ECOs' attention. After checking the first three bags and finding a high percentage of "seed," or undersized, clams, they requested help from additional ECOs to measure the numerous cartloads of clams at the store. ECOs Bob Hodor and John Helmeyer joined the investigation, which resulted in the seizure of 59 bags of 100-count littleneck clams and 37 bags of 200-count littleneck clams. Approximately 13,300 clams were measured by the ECOs over the course of several hours. Additional Restaurant Depot stores were also inspected to determine if undersized clams are a statewide problem. A total of 301 bags of clams were seized from nine of the 10 Restaurant Depot locations across the state, with a total fair market value of approximately $12,500. The seizures included 64 bags in Region 2 (New York City) and 116 bags in Region 1 (Long Island).

Region 3 ECOs with seized clams.
Region 3 ECOs with seized clams and undersized
clams for sale in Region 2.
Undersized clams for sale in Region 2.

Way over the Limit - Washington County

On Dec. 24, ECO Steve Gonyeau received a tip about a Facebook post showing two hunters with 22 rabbits taken in southern Washington County. The picture showed the tailgate of a pickup truck and rabbits stacked across the back of it. Through social media contacts, the two hunters were quickly identified and, with the assistance of ECO George LaPoint, they were located and interviewed. Both hunters stated it was an epic rabbit hunting day and that they didn't realize there is a hunting limit on rabbits. The daily cottontail rabbit limit is six. Both hunters were issued tickets for taking over the limit of rabbits, returnable to the Easton Town Court.

Facebook post that led to illegal rabbit hunting charges.
Facebook post that led to illegal
rabbit hunting charges.

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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