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For Release: Wednesday, November 29, 2017

DEC Environmental Conservation Officer Highlights

ECO Actions for Mid-November

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:

Pennsylvania Buck Seized During Stop -- Broome County
On Nov. 7, ECO Tony Rigoli was on patrol in the town of Windsor when he observed a large antlered deer carcass in the bed of a pickup truck traveling in the opposite direction. While Rigoli turned his vehicle around, the driver sped off at a high rate of speed. ECO Rigoli caught up to the vehicle and conducted a traffic stop. The driver stated he had shot the impressive buck in Pennsylvania and was taking it to his camp in New York to process. The deer carcass was untagged, but the subject had a completed Pennsylvania tag in his possession. ECO Rigoli advised the subject he was in violation of New York's Chronic Wasting Disease (CWD) regulations, and would be ticketed and the carcass seized. The man said he was not going to relinquish the deer carcass. ECO Rigoli contacted Lt. Kenric Warner, who responded and convinced the subject that the deer was going to be seized pursuant to the regulations. The officers also determined that the subject, a Pennsylvania resident, had procured a resident New York hunting license illegally. The man was ticketed for making a false statement to obtain a New York resident hunting license and for violating CWD Regulations. The deer was seized and transferred for testing at Cornell University.

ECO Tony Rigoli and Pennsylvania buck
ECO Tony Rigoli and Pennsylvania buck

Breaking the Law at Bayville Bridge - Nassau County
On the night of Nov. 11, ECO Timothy Brown was observing fisherman at the Bayville Bridge in Oyster Bay when he received a tip that two males were illegally fishing on the south side. ECO Brown watched the two men with the aid of night vision as they caught and hid striped bass in a large bag hidden in nearby wetlands. ECO Brown approached the individuals, obtained their identification, and instructed them to take him to the fish. The officer seized 17 striped bass ranging in size from 14 to 21 inches. The two suspects received tickets for possession of undersized and over the limit striped bass.

Striped bass seized by ECO Brown
Striped bass seized by ECO Brown

Illegal Fish in Chinatown - New York County
On Nov. 15, ECOs Brendan Dickson and Adam Johnson responded to a commercial fishing complaint at a market in Chinatown. ECOs Dickson and Johnson found two men with black plastic trash bags containing 28 striped bass for sale that had been caught in the East River. The recreational possession limit for striped bass is one per day, and only one fish was under the legal size of 28 inches. Tickets were issued for taking of undersized striped bass, taking over the limit striped bass, taking food fish without a food fish permit, taking striped bass without a striped bass permit, fishing without a marine registry, and illegal sale of untagged striped bass.

ECO Dickson with striped bass illegally offered for sale
ECO Dickson with striped bass illegally offered for sale

Upstate Alligator - Broome County
On Nov. 17, Lt. Kenric Warner and ECOs Andy McCormick and Tony Rigoli executed a search warrant at a residence in the town of Kirkwood. Two days earlier, the officers had received information indicating the subject was currently in possession of an alligator. During the execution of the warrant, officers seized a 3 ½-foot long American Alligator. The subject was issued a ticket for the unlawful possession of a wild animal as a pet, returnable to the Town of Kirkwood Court. The alligator was transferred to Animal Adventure Park, a DEC-permitted facility in Harpursville.

You Can't Bait the Deer and Bear - Ulster County
On Nov. 18, ECOs Josh Sulkey and Jason Smith were checking hunting camps as part of Southern Zone opening day patrols. While at a camp in the town of Wawarsing, the ECOs noticed bags of feed lying around the camp. The ECOs questioned the property owner about the feed and he took them to a hunter's tree stand where several piles of feed were scattered nearby. The ECOs learned that a hunter had taken a deer and a bear that morning nearby and had brought the carcasses to a taxidermist. The ECOs located the hunter and after a brief interview he admitted to hunting near the feed. The deer and bear were seized as evidence and the hunter was issued tickets for hunting with the aid of pre-established bait, illegally taking a black bear, and illegally taking a deer.

ECOs Smith and Sulkey with Seized Bear and Buck
ECOs Smith and Sulkey with Seized Bear and Buck

The Complainant Becomes the Suspect - Niagara County
On Nov. 18, ECOs George Scheer and Michael Phelps were on patrol when they responded to a call from the Niagara County Sheriff's Office in the town of Royalton. A complainant claimed someone had stolen a deer he just shot. The ECOs and a New York State Trooper interviewed the complainant who told the officers he thought a man on an ATV took a doe that he shot. ECO Phelps and Trooper Blair attempted to locate the man with the ATV while ECO Scheer continued to interview the complainant. The complainant was in possession of two firearms with ammunition, one shotgun and one rifle, although rifles are not legal for deer hunting in Niagara County. As the interview continued, ECO Scheer discovered the complainant was in possession of a female's hunting license, four Deer Management Permits (DMPs), and regular season tags. The complainant advised that they were his girlfriend's tags and said that she, "does not hunt anymore." The officers also discovered a used crack pipe, used hypodermic needle, and a small white rock suspected to be crack cocaine. The complainant stated he smoked crack from the pipe the night before but not that day. The man was charged with possession of a rifle during deer season in a non-rifle zone, possession of a hunting license of another person, unlawfully possessing another person's DMPs, and various charges for the drugs and paraphernalia. The charges will be heard in the Town of Royalton Court.

Firearms, hunting licenses, drugs and paraphernalia
Firearms, hunting licenses, drugs and paraphernalia

Green and Gray Patrols - Sullivan County
The opening weekend of the Southern Zone rifle season for deer saw ECOs Tom Koepf, Corey Hornicek, and State Trooper Ken Schafer working together as part of the annual "Green and Gray Detail," during which ECOs and State Police work jointly during the big game seasons. On Nov. 18, the officers investigated a trespassing with possible illegal deer take complaint in the town of Neversink. The complainant stated that he caught two hunters dragging a six-point buck to their truck. The hunters did not have permission to be on that property. The complainant shared the suspects' license plate number with the officers, who eventually tracked down a suspect via his grandfather. The six-point buck was confiscated and six tickets were issued, three to the suspect for illegally taking protected wildlife, hunting big game without a license, and trespassing on posted property, and three to the grandfather for having a loaded gun in a motor vehicle, failure to possess a consignment tag, and accessory to violation of the fish and wildlife law. All tickets are returnable to the Town of Neversink Court.

ECO Corey Hornicek and Trooper Ken Schafer with the Illegal 6-point buck
ECO Corey Hornicek and Trooper Ken Schafer
with the Illegal 6-point buck

On Nov. 19, ECO Tom Koepf received a call from a complainant stating he had just heard a shot come from a known baited tree stand near his residence in the town of Lumberland. ECO Koepf patrolled there, found bait, but was unable to locate anyone bow hunting at the location. ECOs Koepf and Corey Hornicek and State Trooper Schafer visited a suspected residence and the officers observed people walking around a well-lit backyard. The officers asked a male subject if he had any luck this deer season and he excitedly said that he had, in fact, just killed a seven-point buck about an hour earlier on a property down the road. The officers asked the man to take them to his stand. At the stand, officers continued to question the man about his deer season and learned that he had shot an additional five-point buck during the bow season about a week prior. The man insisted that the five-pointer was shot from a different treestand behind his own residence and that there was no bait at that location. ECO Koepf and Trooper Schafer inspected the tree stand and did not find any bait immediately in front of it. However, a short distance away in the backyard of the residence, the officers found a large pile of apples and corn. The man admitted that he had been baiting deer in the backyard the entire summer and early fall. Both bucks (one whole deer and one head) were seized from the hunter, and he was issued four tickets returnable to the Town of Lumberland Court.

ECOs Hornicek and Koepf and Trooper Schafer with illegal bucks
ECOs Hornicek and Koepf and Trooper Schafer with illegal bucks

On Nov. 19, ECO Ricky Wood, K-9 Deming, and Trooper Peter Bizjak responded to a complaint at a hunting camp in Ferndale involving several hunters hunting deer with the aid of bait. One evasive hunter tried leading the officers away from a known baited area. K-9 Deming picked up a scent and quickly located a four-point buck in the leaves between a tree stand and a pile of corn. While the officers were investigating the complaint, a subject emerged from the woods near the camp wearing camouflage. The man claimed he was only filming his friends, not hunting. Suspecting that there was a firearm hidden in the woods, ECO Wood worked K-9 Deming in the area from where the subject emerged, eventually locating a firearm hidden in the leaves. Upon the ECO's return to the camp with the gun, the subject changed his story and admitted to hunting. A final hunter returned to camp on an UTV with corn, a doe, and a loaded firearm. Ultimately, the three hunters were charged with hunting deer with the aid of bait. One subject was charged with hunting without a license. Two hunters were charged with the unlawful taking of protected wildlife for harvesting deer with the aid of bait, and one hunter was also charged with possessing a loaded firearm in or on a motor vehicle. All charges are pending in the Town of Liberty Court.

K-9 Deming with the hidden firearm
K-9 Deming with the hidden firearm

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