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For Release: Wednesday, August 28, 2019

DEC Environmental Conservation Police Officer Highlights

ECO Actions for Mid-August

New York State Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) Environmental Conservation Police Officers (ECOs) enforce the 71 Chapters of NY Environmental Conservation Law (ECL), protecting fish and wildlife and preserving environmental quality across New York.

In 2018, the 288 ECOs across the state responded to 21,668 calls and worked on cases that resulted in 20,665 tickets or arrests for crimes ranging from deer poaching to solid waste dumping, 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 DEC 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:

Illegal Clammers Caught Under Moonlight - Kings County
Working overnight on Aug. 11, ECOs Zachary Kochanowski and Joshua Jarecki patrolled the shore of Jamaica Bay in Kings County as the waxing moon caused tides to recede further than normal, making the uncertified waters of the bay an easy target for illegal taking of shellfish. The ECOs spotted one group of people in the water who appeared to be swimming. After a closer look, the officers determined the group was placing clams into a bucket. The ECOs waited patiently as the group left the water. After issuing summonses to the first group, the ECOs watched as the bright night and low tides brought more and more people to the bay. Just before midnight, the officers counted more than 100 individuals digging for clams. The ECOs gathered up the late-night violators and issued tickets for possession of uncertified clams and undersized blue claw crabs. Over the course of the night, 60 blue claw crabs and approximately 900 clams were seized and returned to the waters in Jamaica Bay.

The illigeal clams in buckets
Illegally harvested clams and crabs seized by ECOs

Tangled Timber Rattlesnake - Rockland County
On Aug. 12, ECO Corey Hornicek responded to a report of a Timber Rattlesnake entangled in bird netting at a residence. The complainant told ECO Hornicek that they were not sure if the snake was alive or dead. Upon the ECOs arrival, Hornicek found that the snake was still alive and attempting to free itself. ECO Hornicek called a local rattlesnake handler, who responded to help. Waiting for the handler to arrive, the officer freed the snake by carefully using a pair of scissors to cut away some of the netting. ECO Hornicek then contained the snake, a threatened species in New York, while he waited for the handler to assist him in moving the venomous reptile to a safer location.

ECO using a long pole to hold the snake
ECO Hornicek controlling the snake with a long pole

Harlem Week Recruitment Outreach - New York County
On Aug. 17, ECOs Taylor Della Rocco, Joshua Jarecki, Inv. Kevin Cummings, Lt. Dustin Dainack, Lt. Doreen Lum, Major Michael St. Jeanos, and DEC Public Participation Specialist Adanna Roberts held a large-scale recruitment event on the plaza of the Adam Clayton State Office building on 125th St. in Harlem. On display were mounted wolves, black bear, African lion, and carved ivory elephant tusks-animals not often seen on city streets but seized by ECOs in illegal commercialization of wildlife cases. The display drew in large crowds of curious citizens with many community members engaging the officers about the life of an ECO, how to become an ECO, and how to sign up for the upcoming ECO exam. Learn more about the upcoming ECO and Forest Ranger exams.

Illegal animal displays seized by ECO's being shown at a recruitment event
DEC recruiting display at start of Harlem Week

Suspicious Device - Jefferson County
On Aug. 17, ECO Aaron Bonilla received a complaint about a suspicious device discovered on an isolated Lake Ontario beach in the town of Ellisburg. After determining that the explosive's location could only be accessed by boat, the ECO used a small boat to wind through the waterway connected to Lake Ontario and found the device on the beach. The officer forwarded photos of it to the New York State Police Explosive Ordinance Disposal unit for identification, and a Trooper confirmed the device is a Canadian Munitions Flare that could contain up to 1.5 pounds of phosphorus gas, and could ignite if dry and agitated. ECO Bonilla met a Trooper at the boat launch and took him via boat to the flare where it was secured and transported for safe disposal.

The unexploded flare found on the beach
Unexploded Canadian flare on a Lake Ontario beach

Summer Poaching Case - St. Lawrence County
On Aug. 19, ECO Joe Munn received a call reporting a possible deer poaching in the town of Fine. The caller had heard a gunshot outside his house and when he looked out a window, he saw a pick-up truck on the road in front of one of his fields. The truck drove off and the complainant located a dead doe laying in the field. While ECO Munn responded to the location, the truck returned and dropped a man off. The caller observed the man dragging the deer out of the field as the truck continued up the road. The man in the field noticed the caller watching him and then took off on foot. ECO Munn responded to the scene and waited for the truck to return. After a short time, ECO Munn stopped the truck and interviewed the driver, who admitted to shooting the deer from his vehicle. The subject was charged with taking deer during the closed season, possessing a loaded gun in a motor vehicle, discharging a firearm from a public highway, hunting with the aid of a motor vehicle, and taking protected wildlife except as permitted. Several days later, ECO Munn located the subject who had fled on foot and issued him tickets for his role in the illegal taking of the deer.

ECO with the illegally shot deer
ECO Munn with illegally shot deer

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