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For Release: Wednesday, January 11, 2017

DEC Environmental Conservation Officer Highlights

ECO Actions for Late December to Early January

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:

Search Warrant Leads to Drug Arrest - Fulton County
On Dec. 21, ECOs Shane Manns, Scott Pierce, and Steve Shaw, with assistance from the Fulton County Sheriff's Department, executed a search warrant at the home of a suspect in the town of Bleeker who allegedly shot a whitetail buck over a bait pile with the aid of a spotlight from the second story window of his house. The ECOs successfully recovered the rifle used in the illegal hunting incident, the buck's antlers, and the venison from the suspect's freezer. In addition, the Fulton County Sheriff's Office seized a large bag of marijuana and hallucinogenic mushrooms that were found in plain view in the suspect's home. The suspect was arrested and charged by the ECOs with the illegal killing of the buck, hunting without a license, hunting over bait, hunting during closed hours, and hunting with the aid of a spotlight. He was also charged by the Fulton County Sheriff's Office with criminal possession of marijuana, and federal charges are pending regarding the mushrooms and firearms possession.

A Lot of Waste Tires - Franklin County

In November, ECO Jennifer Okonuk began an investigation into the complaint of waste tires being stored at an auto repair facility in the town of Dickinson. After an inspection was completed with assistance from DEC staff, multiple Petroleum Bulk Storage (PBS) violations were documented in addition to more than 1,000 waste tires being stored on site. In December, ECO Okonuk and DEC staff conducted a follow-up site inspection and discovered additional violations, including the illegal disposal of lead-acid batteries, which had been buried on the property. The case is now being handled jointly by the Division of Law Enforcement and DEC's Office of General Counsel.

an ECO standing among large pile of waste tires
ECO Okonuk and the illegally stored waste tires

Double Trouble - Westchester County
On Dec. 27, a complainant contacted DEC's Dispatch Center to report a man hunting deer over bait with a crossbow in the town of North Salem. The caller, a hunter himself, was also concerned because he saw the man entering the woods at approximately 4 p.m., which was unusual because legal hunting hours that day ended at sunset, or 4:32 p.m. ECOs Josh Crain and Tony Drahms arrived at the site around 4:30 p.m. and found the red truck described by the complainant. The two ECOs waited for the man to come out of the woods, and at approximately 5:15 p.m., they watched a man walk to the truck from the woods. The man denied using bait for hunting but admitted that he had been hunting after sunset. In addition, a loaded crossbow was found in the front seat of the truck. ECO Crain issued the man five tickets for hunting deer during closed hours, hunting with an illegal implement, attempting to take deer illegally, failing to wear a back tag while hunting, and possessing a loaded crossbow in a motor vehicle.

Two days later, ECO Drahms spotted the man's truck parked at the same property. ECO Drahms located the man hunting out of a tree stand over a pre-established bait pile. This time the man admitted to placing bait in the area and to shooting a doe a few days earlier. The man was issued four additional tickets for depositing a substance to entice deer to feed, hunting deer over bait, illegal taking of a deer, and, once again, failing to wear a back tag while hunting.

Four Bucks on Facebook - Orange County
On Dec. 31, ECO Chris Lattimer was informed by multiple sources that someone was bragging on Facebook about shooting four bucks this past season. ECO Lattimer found the Facebook post, taking screenshots of the subject with the illegal deer, although the post was soon deleted. ECOs Lattimer and Kimberly Garnsey went to the suspect's home and conducted a brief interview with him. After initially lying, the alleged hunter admitted that he had shot the four bucks on his property this past season and tagged two of them with his father's tags. He stated that three of them were shot during the legal seasons and one was shot with a rifle during the late archery season. The illegal hunter stated that he did not butcher all of the meat, which was later confirmed when one of the carcasses was found in a field behind his house. He did, however, possess all of the racks, and one was made into a European mount. The hunter was issued tickets for illegally taking protected wildlife, taking in excess of the bag limit for deer, taking deer with an illegal implement, possessing the tags of another person, and for failing to report the take of deer, all returnable to the New Windsor Town Court. The European mount and one skull cap were photographed and seized as evidence. The illegal hunter will not only face criminal penalties, but also may be subject to the revocation of his hunting license.

ECO holding antlers from illegal bucks
ECO Lattimer and antlers from two of the illegal bucks

First-Aid Instructors Trained - Oswego County
From Jan. 3 through Jan. 5, Region 7 ECOs Matt Harger, Jeff Krueger, Paul Sherman, and Dave Thomas attended first aid instructor training at the Division of Law Enforcement (DLE) Training Academy in Pulaski. DLE first aid instructors received training from two senior agents from the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives in Tactical Combat Casualty Care, which covers life-saving techniques that officers can use in a fluid, potentially deadly situation. Tech/Sgt. Anthony Panipinto also led discussions on the evolution of DEC's basic first aid and CPR program, which is taught to other DLE members, as well as DEC civilian staff across the state. The students concluded the course by becoming certified as Naloxone instructors. Naloxone is the life-saving opioid-canceling drug that has been issued to DLE officers across the state and has been credited with saving the lives of overdose victims.

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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