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For Release: Wednesday, September 25, 2019

DEC Environmental Conservation Police Officer Highlights

ECO Actions for Mid-September

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:

Group Effort Saves Hawk - Monroe County
On Sept. 6, ECO J.B. Lutz received a call from DEC's Region 8 Wildlife staff reporting a red-tailed hawk stuck in a tree in the town of Perinton. Coordinating with DEC Wildlife staff and the Egypt Fire Department, ECO Lutz responded with staff from Perinton Animal Control. Once on scene, ECO Lutz could see that the hawk was four stories in the air dangling upside down from a large tree. Egypt FD personnel expertly maneuvered and extended a 110-foot ladder to within a few feet of the hawk. ECO Lutz and a Perinton Animal Control member climbed up to the top of the ladder and determined the hawk had wedged one of its talons into a crack in the tree bark, making it impossible for the bird to free itself. ECO Lutz freed the leg while the other man secured the hawk's wings and talons without causing further injury. Once freed, the hawk was put into an animal carrier for the return trip to the ground. DEC Wildlife staff transported the bird to a wildlife rehabilitator, concluding an excellent team effort by all. The hawk is expected to make a full recovery and will be released when it returns to full strength.

ECO stands next to a tree where the hawk has its leg stuck in a crack Group of people pose for a picture with the hawk they saved in an animal crate
ECO Lutz with hawk stuck in the tree (left); the group who helped free the hawk (right)

Boat Patrol Helps Save the Prop - Orange County
On Sept. 8, ECOs Jon Walraven and Will Chomicki were on patrol on Greenwood Lake when they were flagged down by the operator of a vessel in distress near an Aid to Navigation buoy. ECO Walraven nosed up to the vessel and ECO Chomicki climbed onboard. The operator explained that she was going in reverse and did not see the buoy, striking it, and wrapping the buoy's anchor chain around the propeller. ECO Chomicki used a gaff to loosen the chain enough to allow the operator's son to slip the chain off of the prop without damage to the motor or the buoy. The boaters were able to enjoy the remainder of the day and thanked the ECOs.

ECO leaning over the back of a boat attempting to remove a large chain from the propeller of a small boat
ECO Chomicki working to free chain from boat prop

Sept. 11 Ceremony - Town of Wallkill
On Sept. 11, DEC Region 3 Capt. Martin Townley represented the DLE Police Pipe Band at the annual 9/11 ceremony in the town of Wallkill. The ceremony is attended by veterans, citizens, and local elected officials. Capt. Townley, a bagpiper, accompanied his son and fellow bagpiper Martin Townley Jr., as they played in memory of the victims of the Sept. 11th attacks.

ECO marches in a parade with other law enforcement staff while playing the bagpipes
Capt. Townley plays the pipes during Wallkill's 9/11 ceremony

Too Many Bluefish - Nassau County
On Sept. 14, ECO Zach Prentice was checking anglers along the Freeport Creek when he observed an individual catching bluefish, aka "snappers," and placing the fish inside a clear plastic bag and then a larger black bag. ECO Prentice approached the man and found that the subject was in possession of 23 bluefish. The daily possession limit for bluefish is 15, in which five have to measure at least 12 inches. Tickets were issued for possession over the limit and possession of undersized fish, returnable to the Nassau First District Court.

Twenty-three small fish lined up on their sides on the pavement
Illegally possessed bluefish

The Case of the Flopping Fish - Nassau County
On Sept. 15, just after midnight, ECO Michael Unger was patrolling for striped bass poachers in the vicinity of Leeds Pond outflow at the south end of Manhasset Bay in the town of North Hempstead. ECO Unger observed six fishermen and approached, but the men denied catching any small striped bass. The officer then heard the unmistakable sound of fish flopping in a plastic bag in the weeds nearby. The ECO found three short striped bass hidden in the bag, and the fisherman were issued tickets for possession of undersized striped bass and possession of striped bass over the daily limit.

A few fish piled up for measuring
Seized short striped bass

Fishermen Run Afoul of the Law - Kings County
On Sept. 17, ECOs Ryan Grogan and Brendan Dickson where checking fishing compliance on Canarsie Pier when they spotted a group using a net to catch fish on an adjacent beach. As the ECOs approached the group, one of the fishermen suspiciously walked into the tall reeds along the shoreline. ECO Grogan followed and found several bags of Atlantic menhaden hidden there. The ECOs gathered together all the fishermen using nets and began educating the anglers on the law. They admitted they did not know that the legal limit for menhaden was 100 per person, per day. The ECOs counted a total of 1,718 menhaden, putting the anglers more than 1,300 menhaden over the legal limit. Four tickets were issued to the men for harvesting over the legal limit of Atlantic menhaden.

Later that evening, the ECOs patrolled Kaiser Park Beach in Brooklyn, a common area for those fishing with nets. The ECOs observed a headlamp out in the water and a man returning to a vehicle with a cast net. The ECOs approached the man, who stated he did not catch any fish. While talking to the man, his partner with the headlamp came up from the beach with a bucket and also said he had had no luck. When the ECOs asked if they had any fish in the car, one man replied "no," and the other replied "yes." The fishermen opened the trunk, revealing a bucket full of Atlantic menhaden. Under the menhaden were two short summer flounder (fluke). Four summonses were issued to each of the fishermen for the following: possession of two undersized fluke, catching fluke by illegal means, failing to release fish without undue harm, and fishing without a valid marine registry.

two fish on the ground being measured for length
Two undersized fluke seized by ECOs

Illegal Burning Double Take - Sullivan and Greene Counties
On Sept. 19, ECOs Ricky Wood and Tom Koepf were patrolling in the town of Mamakating when they observed a large burning pile of construction debris. The officers pulled into the residence and spoke to a worker on site, who admitted to setting the fire to get rid of the waste from a house undergoing renovations. Materials in the fire included drywall, treated wood, and plastics. ECOs contacted the Wurtsboro Fire Department to extinguish the fire. The man was issued a summons for open burning of prohibited materials, returnable to the Town of Mamakating Court.

During the evening of Sept. 21, ECO Anthony Glorioso was dispatched to a large fire in the town of Catskill. Subjects at the scene claimed the burning material was only brush, but further investigation quickly revealed that the subjects were in the process of demolishing an old house and were burning all the materials. Local fire companies were called to the scene to extinguish the fire and the subject responsible was issued tickets for the unlawful disposal of solid waste and the open burning of prohibited materials, returnable to the Town of Catskill Court.

Large pile of debris from home improvement projects that have been tossed on some bushes and is on fire. Night-time setting with a large, roaring fire burning in the background
Illegal fire extinguished by the Wurtsboro Fire Department (left); Illegal burning in Catskill (right)

False Start on Tautog Season - Nassau County
On the night of Sept. 21, ECO Rob Kaufherr was patrolling Theodore Roosevelt Park in Oyster Bay when he observed a group of anglers at the boat ramp cleaning their boat. When the anglers were asked what they had caught, they responded with "porgies." When Kaufherr checked the bed of a truck, he spotted two buckets containing porgies, as well as tautog (blackfish) and sea bass. In another truck belonging to one of the anglers, the ECO found two additional buckets of tautog. The anglers were in possession of a total of 35 tautog. The season for tautog doesn't open on Long Island Sound until Oct. 11, and the angler was issued summonses for possessing out of season tautog and possessing undersized black sea bass.

Four buckets with a spotlight on them, all filled with fish
Buckets of tautog taken before the season opened

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