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For Release: Wednesday, October 4, 2017

DEC Environmental Conservation Officer Highlights

ECO Actions for Mid- to Late September

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, the 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:

Marijuana Eradication - Allegany and Cattaraugus Counties
From Sept. 13 to Sept. 22, DEC Division of Law Enforcement personnel participated in a multi-agency marijuana eradication detail focusing on locating and removing marijuana plants throughout Allegany and Cattaraugus counties. New York State Police, the Allegany County Sheriff's Department, and the Southern Tier Drug Task Force participated in the effort along with ECOs Jason Powers, Jamie Powers, Russell Calanni, Dustin Oliver, Sean Rockefeller, Max Woyton, Darci Dougherty, Chris Freeman, Michael Wozniak, and Lt. Don Pleakis. The officers conducted work both on the ground and by air from a State Police helicopter and checked approximately 30 sites over the course of 10 days.

ECOs with State Police helicopter
ECOs with State Police helicopter


That's a lot of striped bass - New York County
On Sept. 17, ECO Adam Johnson observed four individuals fishing along the Harlem River. One subject caught two fish, while another immediately brought the fish roughly 75 yards down the shoreline to gut and clean them. With darkness approaching, ECO Johnson approached the men and asked if they had any fish and one man replied, "No." However, when ECO Johnson checked the subjects' cooler, he found two plastic bags containing multiple undersized striped bass. A total of 22 striped bass were taken by the four individuals, well beyond the daily limit of one striped bass per person. All of the striped bass were less than the required 28 inches in length, and all 22 carcasses had been mutilated, which is a separate violation for the highly regulated species. Twelve summons were issued between the four subjects for possessing undersize striped bass, possessing over the limit, and possessing mutilated striped bass returnable to New York County Court.

Twenty-two undersized and mutilated striped bass
Twenty-two undersized and mutilated striped bass

Injured Bald Eagle - Orleans County
On Sept. 19, ECO Kevin Holzle responded to a report of an injured immature bald eagle in a field in the town of Kendall. The concerned farmer had viewed the eagle the previous day feeding in the squash field and became concerned with the bird's condition the next morning, when he was able to walk right up to it. ECO Holzle arrived on scene and determined that the eagle needed medical attention. DEC Wildlife staff arrived to assist in the capture and transport of the eagle to a licensed rehabilitator for treatment, recovery, and future release.

ECO putting a blanket over an eagle to capture it
ECO Holzle capturing the eagle

Bear Hunting Over Bait - Saratoga County
On Sept. 22, ECOs Steve Shaw, Rob Higgins, and Ryan Kelley investigated a possible illegal bear that was taken in the town of Day. ECOs questioned an individual claiming he had shot the bear in his yard because it was a nuisance. The ECOs located a shooting lane approximately 275 yards from the subject's deck to some hanging steel targets. Below the targets, the ECOs located a pile of corn covered in blood and black hair. After the ECOs confronted the subject with the evidence, he admitted to shooting the bear over a bait pile. The individual was charged with illegally feeding bears, hunting bear with the aid of a pre-established bait pile, and taking an illegal bear. The bear skull, meat, and gall bladder were seized as evidence and all of the charges are returnable to the Town of Day Court.

ECOs Steve Shaw, Ryan Kelley, and Rob Higgins with illegal bear evidence
ECOs Steve Shaw, Ryan Kelley, and Rob Higgins with illegal bear evidence

Bagged ... and Tagged - Orange County
While patrolling Orange County on Sept. 23, ECOs Chris Lattimer and Chloe Swansen drove by a pond on Wawayanda Avenue in the town of Wallkill and spotted two men fishing. As the ECOs approached the men, one of them was observed throwing an object into the water. The other man quickly bagged an item and tried to hide it. Officer Lattimer told the men to stop what they were doing and began investigating the fishermen's bucket and bags. The ECOs found bluegills and one undersized largemouth bass in the bucket, and a live snapping turtle in the plastic bag. ECO ECO Swansen measured the turtle at eight inches and then released it back into the pond. While ECO Lattimer interviewed the fishermen, ECO Swansen spotted a floating plastic bag in the water, which appeared to be moving. That bag contained more bluegills and three additional undersized largemouth bass. The men were issued a total of four summons, two for fishing without a freshwater fishing license, one for undersized fish, and one for illegal taking of protected wildlife, all of which are returnable to the Town of Wallkill Court.

ECO Swansen releasing the turtle from the bags
ECO Swansen releasing the turtle from the bags

No Child Left Behind - Richmond County
On Sept. 23, ECO Waldemar Auguscinski was patrolling the Upper New York Harbor shorelines of Richmond County when he observed four anglers trespassing on the shoreline in front of Von Briesen Park. The subjects had an inflatable boat and a toddler in a stroller. The anglers paddled away from shore and began fishing, leaving the one-year-old girl behind on shore in the stroller. NYPD officers from 120th Precinct were called in and arrested the parents of the toddler who were among the four fishing from the boat for endangering the welfare of a child. The little girl was taken by EMS for evaluation and the parents were issued summonses for failure to carry marine registries and insufficient personal floatation devices.

Burning Wood and Couches - Ulster County
One Sept. 23, ECOs Jason Smith and Lucas Palmateer were working an evening shift when they spotted a large bonfire behind a residence in the town of Shawangunk. The officers were greeted by two male subjects who said they were burning "just wood." As the ECOs walked closer to the fire, they noticed a couch engulfed in flames and more furniture behind the fire ready to be burned. The subjects admitted that they were just trying to get rid of old furniture, as well as burning old wood, which resulted in the resident of the property being issued a ticket for unlawful open burning of solid waste. The ticket is returnable to the Town of Shawangunk Court.

Burning couch and additional furniture
Burning couch and additional furniture

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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