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For Release: Wednesday, May 17, 2017

DEC Environmental Conservation Officer Highlights

ECO Actions for Early May

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:

This Turkey was Hunting Coyotes? - Franklin County

On May 1, the opening day of spring turkey season, ECO Jim Cranker was on foot patrol in the town of Brighton when he heard a single gunshot ring out. ECO Cranker observed a hunter with a shotgun at the edge of a field, approached the man, and asked to see his hunting license. The subject did not possess a current turkey permit, denied hunting turkeys, and said he had taken a shot at a coyote that was stalking a flock of wild turkeys in the field. Despite being afield with a shotgun at 8 a.m., prime turkey hunting time, the hunter staunchly maintained he was hunting coyotes. However, coyote hunting season closed the end of March, which means shooting at coyotes is now prohibited. The hunter was issued a ticket for hunting coyotes out of season.

Distressed Loon - Cattaraugus County

On May 2, ECO Nate Mead received a call stating that a Common Loon had been found on a road in the town of East Otto. While en route to the area, ECO Mead contacted a local wildlife rehabilitator for assistance. The rehabilitator advised that loons sometimes confuse wet roadways with bodies of water and may have landed on the road by accident, thinking it was a pond. ECO Mead arrived to find that the Loon appeared to be perfectly healthy. ECO Mead took a towel and placed it over the bird to calm it down so he could transport it. After waiting several minutes, ECO Mead was able to pick up the bird and place it in a box. The Loon was transported to a local pond a short distance away and, once in the water, took off paddling and dove under the water.

Common Loon stranded on a road in East Otto
Common Loon stranded on a road in East Otto

Too Many Turkeys - Washington County

On May 2, ECOs Steve Gonyeau and Tom Wensley responded to a complaint of illegal wild turkey hunting in the town of Kingsbury. A father and son had been hunting turkeys when they witnessed another individual shoot at a group of turkeys in the same field. The hunter hit three turkeys and was seen taking the birds into the woods, and later leaving the field without turkeys in hand. The ECOs later found four male turkey carcasses partially field dressed and hidden under some dead wood. They also located empty shells and shotgun wads. The ECOs followed a trail to a farmhouse where they obtained a list of hunters allowed on the property. During an interview with a Lake George-based hunter, the subject stated that he didn't shoot anything that day but did hear shots. Upon further investigation, the officers found two small turkey feathers and a bloody pocket knife in with the man's hunting gear, which also matched the description given by the complainant. When confronted with the evidence, the man admitted to shooting three times, claiming that the birds were walking in a line and that it was an accident that he shot so many at once. He turned over the turkey meat to the ECOs and was issued tickets for taking over the daily limit, taking over the season limit, and failing to tag the turkeys. He agreed to settling the case and paid $500 in penalties on May 10.

ECO Gonyeau with the illegally killed wild turkeys
ECO Gonyeau with the illegally killed wild turkeys

Wolf Pelt in Massena - St. Lawrence County

ECO Jon Ryan recently received a complaint from a retired ECO about a full-sized grey wolf pelt for sale at a store in the Massena Mall. On May 3, ECO Ryan, dressed in plain clothes, stopped into the store to check out the wolf. The store primarily sells rustic furniture, but also has numerous wild game head mounts for sale legally. The store owners told ECO Ryan that the pelt was for sale for $800. ECO Ryan identified himself as a conservation officer, and the owners were cooperative, telling ECO Ryan they had purchased the pelt from an unknown individual. ECO Ryan explained the issue of selling endangered species in New York State and provided the couple with copies of the statute. ECO Ryan issued two tickets, one for the sale of an endangered species and one for possession of protected wildlife. The pelt was seized and taken into evidence and will be used for educational purposes once the court case is complete.

Grey Wolf pelt for sale in Massena
Grey Wolf pelt for sale in Massena

Don't Forget the Plug - Kings County

On May 4, ECOs Chris Macropoulos, Waldemar Auguscinski, Spencer Noyes, and Lucas Palmateer were on boat patrol in Jamaica Bay when they observed the U.S. Coast Guard assisting a vessel taking on water. The ECOs deployed a high flow water pump while USCG towed the vessel in an attempt to keep it afloat. However, as they pumped water out of the vessel, it filled up again. The ECOs inspected the bilge and discovered that the drain plug was not installed. ECO Macropoulos was able to plug the hole with his finger until USCG supplied him with a wooden dowel to close the drain hole. USCG then towed the vessel to a nearby boat ramp, where the owner's friend was waiting with a trailer to haul the vessel out.

ECO Macropoulos and the Coast Guard pumping out the sinking vessel
ECO Macropoulos and the Coast Guard pumping out the sinking vessel

Car in the Hudson River - Orange County

On May 5 at approximately 9:40 p.m., ECO Kimberly Garnsey was called to assist City of Newburgh Police Department with a subject who had allegedly driven her 2010 Volkswagen "accidentally" into the Hudson River. ECO Garnsey arrived at the Newburgh station, where the individuals involved were being questioned by detectives. The woman who had been driving the car claimed she was about to take the Volkswagen to the credit union and surrender it so that it could be sold. She claimed the car began making noises, so she drove it to a parking area by the river. She thought she put the car in reverse. However, the car rolled forward and she jumped out just as it submerged into the river. She stated to the detectives that she immediately called 911 and her insurance company. However, her friend told the detectives a different story, explaining that it was the woman's intention to drive the car into the Hudson River in order to have the car paid off by her insurance company. Newburgh detectives arrested the woman for insurance fraud. ECO Garnsey issued the subject tickets for Disposing of Substance Injurious to Fish/Wildlife to the Waters of the State, Disposing of Noxious/Offensive Poisonous Substance in a Stream, Sewer, or any Public Waters, and Polluting Waters in Contravention of Standards. The Newburgh PD also charged her with Insurance Fraud in the third degree, a Class D Felony. The woman spent the night in jail and was arraigned in Newburgh City Court the following morning.

Submerged 2010 Volkswagen in the Hudson River in Newburgh
Submerged 2010 Volkswagen in the Hudson River in Newburgh

Muslim Youth Career Day Outreach- Kings County

On May 6, ECOs John Rich and Brian Gustitus attended an outreach event to inspire youth in the Muslim community to pursue careers in law enforcement. Mohammad Razvi, the Executive Director of the Council of Peoples Organization (COPO), invited multiple law enforcement agencies to participate in the annual COPO Career Day, including DEC's Division of Law Enforcement, NYPD, Customs and Border Patrol, NY/NJ Port Authority, and the Nassau County Police Department. The event focused on bridging the gap between youth in certain communities and the law enforcement community. Mr. Razvi aims to inspire children and young adults in the Muslim community to pursue careers in law enforcement and feel comfortable approaching men and women in uniform.

ECO's Rich and Gustitus, standing with Mohammad Razvi
ECO Rich (left), Mohammad Razvi (center),
ECO Gustitus (right)

Too Much Mud, Even for a Jeep - Broome County

On May 6, ECO Andy McCormick received a complaint of a Jeep stuck on a DEC Flood Control easement in the town of Union. He requested a New York State Trooper to respond, as well, and upon arrival found the Jeep stuck in a large pond area. ECO McCormick contacted a towing company to remove the Jeep. With heavy rain still falling, the recovery required two hours and two tow trucks, as the first tow truck became mired in mud. The driver of the Jeep stated he had observed the signs that motor vehicles were not allowed on the flood wall and drove around a locked gate to access the ponding area. ECO McCormick issued him a ticket for operating a motor vehicle on a flood control easement.

Jeep stuck deep in water and mud
Jeep stuck deep in water and mud

Swift Water Rescue Training - Washington County

On May 6 and 7, Region 4 ECOs Brian Wilson, Jason DeAngelis, Jason Curinga, Sean Dewey, and Brian Canzeri attended two days of swift water rescue training conducted by State Office of Fire Prevention and Control personnel in Washington County. Officers trained in the cold and fast-moving rapids of the Battenkill River. The intensive training will continue later this month for the final two days of the course.

ECOs participating in swift water rescue training
ECOs participating in swift water rescue training

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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