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For Release: Wednesday, March 1, 2017

DEC Environmental Conservation Officer Highlights

ECO Actions for Mid-February

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 2016, the 286 ECOs across the state responded to 26,400 calls and issued 22,150 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:

Ice Fishing Derby - Ulster County

On Feb. 11, ECOs Joshua Sulkey and Jeannette Bastedo attended the Wittenberg Sportsman Club's fishing derby in Woodstock. Many club members and their guests showed up for the event and trophies were awarded at the end for the largest fish and for the most fish caught. Several large Yellow Perch were among the fish caught during the derby.

ECO Sulkey and a proud young angler.
ECO Sulkey and a proud young angler.

Reticulated Python Seizure - New York County

On Feb. 12, ECO Spencer Noyes came across a Craigslist ad offering an Albino Reticulated Python for sale in Manhattan. Reticulated Pythons are classified as wild animals under New York State Environmental Conservation Law and individuals are required to have a special license to possess or sell the snakes. Reticulated Pythons are the longest snakes in the world, growing to more than 20 feet in length and can be dangerous. Working with Lt. Michael Buckley, ECO Noyes determined the seller did not have a license. Acting as an interested buyer, Noyes contacted the seller and after several phone conversations, the seller agreed on a price for the original snake plus a second animal. On Feb. 13, ECOs Noyes and Bill Chomicki went in plain clothes to the seller's residence in the Washington Heights section of Manhattan. Lt. Nate VerHague and ECOs Zach Brown and Jarrod Lomozik served as uniformed backup. When the seller came outside with both snakes, Noyes and Chomicki identified themselves as Conservation Officers and, after a brief conversation, the seller admitted to not having any DEC permits to possess the snakes. The snakes were seized as evidence and transported to the Animal Care Center of NYC, where they are being cared for and will eventually be sent to the Sean Casey Animal Rescue in Brooklyn, which specializes in the rescue and rehabilitation of reptiles. The seller was charged with possessing a wild animal without a permit and is due in New York County Court in May.

From L to R: ECOs Brown, Chomicki, Noyes, and Lomozik with two juvenile Albino Reticulated Pythons.
From L to R: ECOs Brown, Chomicki, Noyes,
and Lomozik with two juvenile Albino Reticulated Pythons.

Keeping Long Island's Water Clean - Suffolk & Nassau Counties

On Feb. 13, three teams of ECOs visited health care facilities throughout Long Island where they collected 660 pounds of expired medications during the third DEC Long Island Pharmaceutical Take-Back Day. At least 24 Nassau and Suffolk county health care facilities participated in the program. ECOs collect and responsibly destroy unused or expired prescription drugs. In the past, many of these facilities flushed the medications down the drain to dispose of them. Flushing pills can contaminate drinking water sources, and pharmaceuticals have been detected in New York State waterways. ECOs Alena Lawston and Jordan Doroski collected from eastern Suffolk facilities. Lt. Tom Gadomski and ECO Kaitlin Grady collected from western Suffolk facilities. ECOs Tim Fay and Chris DeRose collected from the Nassau facilities. After completing their stops, the three teams met at Covanta, a waste disposal facility in Westbury, where the pharmaceuticals were destroyed by incineration.

Lt. Gadomski and ECO Grady dispose of expired pharmaceuticals.
Lt. Gadomski and ECO Grady dispose of expired pharmaceuticals.

Grandpa Never Lies - Jefferson County

At 10:45 a.m. on Feb. 17, ECOs Jeff Hull and Ron Gross responded to a call of three men unloading snowmobiles and carrying rifles in the town of Rutland. The snowmobiles left the area prior to the ECOs arriving, but as ECO Hull was following fresh snowmobile tracks nearby, he came across a pick-up truck parked on the shoulder of the road with the doors open and two men standing outside. The two men explained that they were coyote hunting, which was evident by the dogs in the truck, their handheld radios, and hunting clothes. ECO Hull observed a loaded rifle on the front seat of the truck and a grey fox carcass in the bed of the truck. One subject claimed his grandfather gave him the fox carcass the prior day, but then changed his story once he realized that fox season was closed, claiming that he had been in possession of the carcass for several days. ECO Gross had previously warned one of the subjects about possessing road kill carcasses out of season, and a quick call was made to the grandfather, who happily stated he had found the fox on the side of the road the day before and given it to his grandson to sell. ECO Hull issued a ticket for possession of a loaded firearm in a motor vehicle to one hunter and a ticket for possession of wildlife other than permitted to the second hunter.

Loaded rifle illegally possessed inside a vehicle.
Loaded rifle illegally possessed inside a vehicle.

Caught Crabbing off Staten Island - Richmond County

On Feb. 17 at 3 a.m., ECOs Christopher Macropoulos and Waldemar Auguscinski were conducting surveillance from shore based on information from the New Jersey Department of Fish and Wildlife that vessels were illegally dredging for blue claw crabs in the Ambrose Channel area south of the Verrazano Bridge. Within an hour they spotted a vessel enter Richmond County waters that appeared to be dredging. The ECOs joined the U.S. Coast Guard to perform a joint boarding of the suspected vessel while ECO Michael Hameline was called to maintain sight of the crabbing vessel and relay its position. With air temperatures in the teens and heavy seas, they approached the fishing vessel, which attempted to flee back to New Jersey waters once the captain realized he was being approached by law enforcement. The Coast Guard vessel quickly prevented the fishing vessel from leaving the area. Upon boarding the vessel, the ECOs and Coast Guard members found approximately seven bushels of blue claw crabs (583 crabs in total), along with 12 whelk on the vessel. The captain admitted to knowing that dredging for blue claw crabs is illegal. He was charged with the illegal commercialization of wildlife, taking blue claw crabs by dredge in Richmond County, and taking whelk commercially without a permit. He was also issued a notice of violation, giving him the option to settle civilly with the DEC. The whelk were returned to the water and the crabs were donated to the NYC Rescue Mission.

ECO Macropoulos and U.S. Coast Guard members with seized blue claw crabs.
ECO Macropoulos and U.S. Coast Guard
members with seized blue claw crabs.

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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