Department of Environmental Conservation

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For Release: Wednesday, February 15, 2017

DEC Environmental Conservation Officer Highlights

ECO Actions for Late January to Early February

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, 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:

Venison for Sale on Craigslist - Chemung County

In late January, ECOs Shea Mathis and Erik Dalecki began an investigation after finding an ad on Craigslist offering venison for sale in Elmira. ECO Mathis set up a meeting with the seller, posing as a potential buyer. The subject knew that selling venison in New York State was illegal, but said he did it because he "needed the money." When the subject was confronted with the statutes of the law, he claimed he thought only restaurants couldn't sell the meat. The subject was issued a ticket for illegally selling venison, returnable to the Town of Elmira Court.

Striped Bass Poaching - Rockland County

On Jan. 30, ECO Maxwell Nicols received a tip reporting illegal Striped Bass fishing taking place at the Haverstraw Marina in West Haverstraw. ECO Andrew Kostuk assisted as Nicols conducted surveillance along the Hudson River by foot. One subject was seen catching bass and hiding them in the tall grass along the beach. ECO Nicols was unable to catch up to the man when he took the garbage bags containing the fish to his car. However, ECO Kostuk was able to stop the subject's vehicle as it attempted to leave the parking lot. Six Striped Bass were found in the vehicle, and the fisherman was charged with the possession of Striped Bass out of season. The charges are returnable to the Town of Haverstraw Court.

ECOs Andrew Kostuk and Maxwell Nicols with the illegally taken Striped Bass.
ECOs Andrew Kostuk and Maxwell Nicols with
the illegally taken Striped Bass.

"Owl" Hours of the Night - Westchester County

On Feb. 1 at approximately 11 p.m., ECO Craig Tompkins received a phone call from a young man who stated he was driving home from a friend's house when an owl flew into the side of his car. He had stopped his car and found the bird lying in the middle of the road, still alive but injured. As he approached the owl, it hopped onto the shoulder of the road and into the nearby bushes. The young man was able to give the exact location of the injured owl to ECO Tompkins, who went to the location and found the owl on the ground. With the help of ECOs Tony Drahms and Zachary Crain, who were on patrol in the nearby area, the Barred Owl was captured and brought to the Brewster Veterinary Hospital for treatment and rehabilitation.

ECOs Craig Tompkins and Tony Drahms with the injured Barred Owl.
ECOs Craig Tompkins and Tony Drahms
with the injured Barred Owl.

Heavy Diesel Emissions Violation - Queens County

On Feb. 1, ECOs JT Rich and Evan McFee noticed a cement mixer truck emitting a large cloud of black smoke from its exhaust stack. After driving through the thick cloud of smoke, the ECOs stopped the truck and tested the opacity of the exhaust smoke, using a calibrated smoke opacity meter to determine if the truck was within the legal limit. The ECOs found this particular truck to have an average emission opacity of 96.2 percent, well above the legal 55 percent allowed for the age of the truck. The company that owns the vehicle was issued a summons for an air quality violation returnable to Queens County Court in April.

ECO McFee measuring the emission opacity.
ECO McFee measuring the emission opacity.

Snowmobile Operators Course - Lewis County

From Feb. 1 to Feb. 3, the Division of Law Enforcement's Training Unit hosted a basic snowmobile operator course for ECOs and officers from the Rome Police Department and Oswego County Sheriff's Department. Attendees were instructed in basic snowmobile operating techniques, snowmobile care and maintenance, effective and tactical patrol techniques, ice and cold weather safety, policy and procedure, and laws relative to snowmobile patrol. The course included one classroom day at the DEC Law Enforcement Training Academy in Pulaski, a day at the Dadville DEC Sub office to hone snowmobile skills, and a day for a training ride on Tug Hill out of Barnes Corners. DEC reminds snowmobilers to ride responsibly and put safety first on the trails. Please visit DEC's website to view DEC's and NYS Parks' press release on snowmobile safety.

DLE snowmobile
DLE snowmobile training for law enforcement officers.

Illegal Doe Taken Out of Season - Herkimer County

On Feb. 3, ECO Darryl Lucas and Lt. Matthew Jacoby were investigating complaints of a recent string of deer jackings in the town of Danube. A tip came in describing a white, four-door sedan poaching deer between the hours of 2 a.m. and 6 am. On patrol at 4:35 a.m., the officers noticed the suspect's vehicle slowly driving down a road and a passenger shining the fields with a spotlight. As the officers pulled out of a hiding spot to follow, a shot rang out from the vehicle. The officers immediately stopped the vehicle and found it occupied by three men. The ECOs noticed fresh deer hair sticking out of the trunk. Inside was a recently killed doe deer and a shotgun, which had been hidden in the trunk via a trapdoor in the backseat. The three suspects admitted that they had shot the deer in the trunk earlier that night in the town of Frankfort. The suspects provided additional information that they had taken more deer illegally on prior dates. ECOs Steven Lakeman and Ricardo Grisolini went to the Utica residence of one of the subjects where they recovered two more deer capes from the garage. ECO Corey Schoonover and K-9 Jake were called to the scene of the two shootings to help gather further evidence. The three men were each charged with taking deer with the aid of an artificial light (deer jacking), possessing a loaded firearm in a motor vehicle, spotlighting deer while possessing a firearm, and shooting from a public highway. The subjects were arraigned and are due back in Danube Town Court on Feb. 20.

Boating Safety - Richmond County

On Feb. 5, ECO Mary Grose spoke to a group of a dozen students at the Staten Island Tuna Club about boating safety. Participants ranged in age from 6-14 years old and learned about Personal Flotation Device (PFD) regulations, boating safety, and fishing regulations. Students were able to tour DLE patrol vessel A-12, the "Fitz" and learn about what the Marine Enforcement Unit (MEU) does to protect and conserve marine resources.

ECO Grose with students from the Staten Island Tuna Club on board vessel A-12, the “Fitz”.
ECO Grose with students from the Staten Island
Tuna Club on board vessel A-12, the "Fitz".

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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