Department of Environmental Conservation

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For Release: Wednesday, November 8, 2017

DEC Environmental Conservation Police Officer Highlights

ECO Actions for Late October

New York State Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) Environmental Conservation Police 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.

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).

"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:

The Night Time Isn't the Right Time -- Niagara County
On the morning of Oct. 21, ECO Mike Phelps was working in Niagara County patrolling for after-hours fishing activity. At approximately 2:30 a.m., using night vision equipment, he spotted a group of four men fishing on the eastern side of 18-Mile Creek the town of Newfane. Three of the men began walking north along the creek to the parking lot. The remaining fisherman attempted to take fish by scooping at them with a landing net. At 3:40 a.m., ECO Phelps approached the lone fisherman. When questioned, the man said that he and the other three men had come up from New York City together. ECO Phelps then walked back to the parking area with the man and found the other three men inside the gated and fenced-in lot. The officer found nine King salmon in their van, which was parked outside the fence. All four men were charged with fishing after legal hours, three men were charged with illegal possession of salmon, one with fishing by means other than angling, and one with fishing without a valid license. In addition, the Niagara County Sheriff charged the four men with trespassing and theft of services under the Penal Law, as use of the parking lot requires payment. The subjects were arraigned in the Town of Newfane Court and taken to the Niagara County Jail by the Niagara County Sheriff's Department in lieu of bail.

A Shot in the Dark - Warren County
ECO George LaPoint recently received a complaint of a man hunting with a rifle out of the second story window of his home over bait at night. On Oct. 23, ECO LaPoint was contacted by the same complainant, who notified him that the suspect had just shot a deer and dragged it into his garage. ECOs LaPoint and Alan Brassard immediately responded to the suspect's home and, as they pulled into the driveway, noticed a pile of corn and a salt lick. A small amount of blood was evident near the bait and a four-point buck was hanging in the garage. After being interviewed and faced with overwhelming evidence, the suspect admitted to shooting the deer. His rifle and the deer were taken into evidence and the man was charged with taking deer with the aid of artificial light, hunting after hours, taking deer over bait, and feeding deer within 300 feet of the road. Additional charges are under investigation and the suspect is due back in the Horicon Town Court on Nov. 22.

ECOs Brassard and LaPoint with the deer and rifle
ECOs Brassard and LaPoint with the deer and rifle (left),
and the pile of corn used as bait (right)

Illegal Fishing on the Genesee River - Monroe County
On Oct. 23, ECOs Kevin Holzle, Eoin Snowdon, and Jeff Johnston responded to a complaint of fish being caught by "snagging" on the Genesee River at the lower falls in Rochester. From the Rt. 104 bridge upstream to the lower falls, the Genesee River is one of the Lake Ontario tributaries subject to seasonal regulations from Sept. 1 to March 31. After conducting surveillance from multiple viewpoints around the lower falls, ECOs Holzle and Johnston entered the gorge and met with several subjects. The ECOs issued a total of 15 tickets for a variety of violations, including fishing without a valid license, taking fish by snagging, and disposing of fish or parts of fish within 100 feet of shore, all returnable to the City of Rochester Court. Additionally, one subject was taken into custody on a warrant from the Town of Gates Police Department.

ECO Johnston watching for illegal fishing
ECO Johnston watching for
illegal fishing

Late Season Fishing Activity on the Oswego River - Oswego County
On Oct. 24, ECO Matt Harger arrested two fishermen for taking over the daily limit of salmon on the Oswego River. The two subjects tried to camouflage their activities by staging a cooler in the woods about one-half mile upstream of the Oswego River dam. Acting on a tip, ECO Harger found the hidden cooler and waited for the fishermen to return. When the suspects returned to stash additional salmon, ECO Harger caught the pair with 13 salmon, well over the daily limit. On Oct. 29, ECO Rick Head also had an active day patrolling the Oswego River, issuing 10 tickets to individuals for violations of the Environmental Conservation Law ranging from taking fish by blind snatching, possession of foul hooked fish, and fishing without a license, to trespassing on posted property that belongs to the Brookfield Power Company.

Brush Fire Conceals Burning Solid Waste - Ulster County
On Oct. 24, ECO Jason Smith received a complaint from a concerned citizen regarding a large brush fire at an orchard in the town of Lloyd. Upon arrival, ECO Smith found a brush fire approximately 100 feet long by 25 feet wide. After interviewing several of the orchard's employees, the officer determined that materials prohibited from burning were in the fire. ECO Smith returned the next day to investigate further and while rummaging through the fire's remnants, found burned tires, mattresses, and plastic. The property owner was issued a summons for prohibited open burning of solid waste, returnable to the Town of Lloyd Court.

Brush fire containing illegal solid waste
Brush fire containing illegal solid waste

10-Point Buck Killed Near Backyard Bait - Dutchess County
On Oct. 27, ECO Zachary Crain received information regarding a 10-point buck shot in the town of Poughkeepsie. The complainant explained that the man who shot the buck keeps a feeder in his backyard filled with bird seed. At the residence, ECO Crain asked the alleged poacher to show him the buck he had shot that morning. The impressive 10-pointer was hanging in the man's garage and was not properly tagged. The man turned and asked, "Are you going to ticket me for my bird feeders?" ECO Crain then asked the man show him the backyard where the feeder was hung. The subject had positioned a game camera approximately 10 feet from the feeder to capture the unsuspecting deer that visit the feeder for an easy meal. ECO Crain asked the man to show him where the deer was shot. The man explained that he was getting ready to go hunting that morning in Hyde Park when he saw the buck walking away from the feeder. Despite knowing hunting over bait is illegal, the temptation proved too great. The illegally harvested buck was seized as evidence and the man received numerous citations, including hunting before legal shooting hours, improperly tagged deer, and illegal take of protected wildlife with the aid of pre-established bait. All of the charges are returnable to the Town of Poughkeepsie Justice Court.

ECO Zachary Crain with the illegally killed 10-point buck
ECO Zachary Crain with the illegally killed 10-point buck

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