Department of Environmental Conservation

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For Release: Wednesday, April 5, 2017

DEC Environmental Conservation Officer Highlights

ECO Actions for Late March

New 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 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:

Injured Bird of Prey - Suffolk County

On March 21, ECO Chris Amato was on foot patrol walking along the Carmans River in Southaven County Park when a Red Tailed Hawk came rolling down a hill in front of him. The bird had an injured wing and leg and was unable to fly. ECO Amato contacted a local wildlife rehabilitator and, with help from ECO Nate Godson, captured the hawk and secured it for transport. The exact cause of the injuries was not determined and the hawk was taken to the Selden Emergency Animal Hospital. The hawk is being transferred to a rehabilitator.

Injured red tailed hawk in the woods.
ECO Amato with injured red tailed hawk.
Injured red tailed hawk and ECO Amato with the hawk in
the bin, ready for transport to an animal hospital.

Sea Turtles and Illegal Ivory - Queens County

On March 22, after conducting pesticide sales enforcement in Queens County, ECOs Adam Johnson and Spencer Noyes entered a nearby antique shop. ECOs were looking for ivory that is occasionally sold from antique shops. However, during this visit their inspection found two sea turtle carapaces, one from a Green Sea Turtle and one from a Hawksbill Sea Turtle. The sea turtle carapaces are illegal to possess without a permit. Johnson and Noyes called nearby Queens ECOs Zach Brown and Lucas Palmateer and Staten Island ECO Jarred Lomozik to help complete their inspection. Ultimately, the team confiscated 13 assorted pieces of ivory in addition to the two carapaces. The store owner was ticketed for the sale of illegal ivory and the possession of threatened or endangered species or their parts without permits.

ECOs Noyes, Johnson, Lomozik, Palmateer, and Brown with the 13 pieces of illegal ivory and two sea turtle carapaces.
ECOs Noyes, Johnson, Lomozik, Palmateer, and Brown with
the 13 pieces of illegal ivory and two sea turtle carapaces.

First (Illegal) Deer - Washington County

On March 23, ECO Matt Krug received a complaint through DEC's Dispatch Center regarding an anonymous tip reporting a 25-year-old woman that had shot a five-point buck during the 2016 hunting season without a hunting license. An electronic search confirmed the woman did not have a valid hunting license. The complainant provided a picture of the woman posing with the deer and described where the European-style mount of the deer's skull was kept. ECO Krug interviewed the woman at her home in the town of Jackson. She initially stated her father had shot the deer and that the antlers were a gift from him, but a search revealed that her father had not reported any deer taken since 2013. When confronted with the new information, the woman admitted that she had killed the five point buck with a 30-06 rifle behind her father's house in White Creek. She stated that she didn't have a hunting license because she had never taken a hunter education class. The mount was seized as evidence and the woman was issued appearance tickets for illegally taking a whitetail deer and hunting without a license. The tickets are returnable to the White Creek Town Court on April 20.

Mounted skull of the illegally killed buck.
Mounted skull of the illegally killed buck.

Displaced Dolphin - Westchester County

On March 23, ECOs Wes Leubner and Tony Drahms were called to the scene of a dolphin trapped in a canal connected to the Hutchinson River in an industrialized area of Mt. Vernon. The dolphin was alive and swimming, but exhibiting strange behavior, refusing to leave the shallow congested waterway. After speaking to marine mammal rescue staff, emergency responders determined that intervention at that point would be unsuccessful and likely do more harm than good. The recommended course of action was to leave the animal alone and wait for it to head back out into the bay on its own with the rising tide. Unfortunately, the animal was discovered deceased the following day in a smaller tributary of the Hutchinson River on the creek bank. ECOs recovered the dolphin's carcass from the tributary, approximately one mile from its original location, with the assistance of the Westchester County Police Department and Pelham Manor Police Department. The carcass was transported to a nearby county facility for a necropsy to be performed by a pathobiologist with the Atlantic Marine Conservation Society. The initial assessment showed that the dolphin was a mature female, old for this species of common short-beaked dolphin. It was just under 7 feet long and weighed approximately 220 pounds. The common short-beaked dolphin is an oceanic species, native to the deeper, offshore waters of New York State. While its presence in brackish water far from the open ocean is unusual, experts noted that it isn't unheard of for marine mammals to seek out warmer, shallower waters when distressed or nearing the end of its life cycle.

Common Short Beaked Dolphin swimming in canal connected to the Hutchinson River.
Common Short Beaked Dolphin swimming in canal connected
to the Hutchinson River.
ECO Leubner with Westchester County PD removing the deceased dolphin from a small tributary of the Hutchinson River in Mt. Vernon.
ECO Leubner with Westchester County PD removing the
deceased dolphin from a small tributary of the Hutchinson
River in Mt. Vernon.

DLE K-9 Finds Hidden Striped Bass - Rockland County

On March 24, ECO Maxwell Nicols was on patrol at the Hudson River Dock in Bear Mountain State Park. Four fishermen were observed on the dock. One left the area and walked into the nearby woods, carrying a fish and returning empty-handed a short time later. The same subject was seen again carrying a striped bass toward the woods and coming back without the fish. With striped bass season still closed and the fishermen insisting to ECO Nicols that they hadn't caught any fish, ECO Ricky Wood and K-9 Deming were called to help find the hidden fish. K-9 Deming was the first DLE K-9 certified in the detection of striped bass. Deming quickly alerted ECO Wood to an area of snow-covered ground and, after scouring through the snow, the ECOs found a total of five striped bass and two catfish. Faced with the illegal fish, the fisherman admitted to catching the fish and were issued tickets for fishing without licenses, possession of striped bass out of season, and illegal taking of catfish, returnable to Stony Point Town Court in early May.

DEC K-9 Deming alerting to handler ECO Wood on the found striped bass.
DEC K-9 Deming alerting to handler ECO Wood on the
found striped bass.
Uncovered striped bass and catfish.
Uncovered striped bass and catfish.

Illegal Ice Fishing in the High Peaks - Franklin County

On March 26, ECOs Nathan Favreau and Jeffrey Hovey were on snowmobile patrol between Essex and Franklin counties to check for illegal ice fishing activity on remote trout ponds. Soon after the ECOs began the patrol they encountered a snowmobile parked at Pine Pond. Ice fishing and the use of live bait are prohibited on the 50-acre trout and salmon pond, located in the High Peaks Wilderness. ECOs Favreau and Hovey observed the owner of the snowmobile ice fishing with tip-ups and found that the man was also using live minnows for bait. The man claimed to be unaware of the fishing regulations and had never opened the New York State Fishing Regulation Guide in his 41 years of living in the Adirondacks. He was issued tickets for ice fishing in closed waters, possession of baitfish in prohibited waters, and failure to exhibit a baitfish receipt. All of the charges are returnable to the Town of Harrietstown Court on April 17.

When the Circus is in Town - Albany County

On March 25, ECO Kurt Bush conducted a compliance inspection at the Carson & Barnes Circus at the Washington Avenue Armory in the city of Albany. Exhibition shows such as a circus in possession of exotic animals are required to obtain permits prior to bringing such animals into New York State. ECO Bush determined that the circus had the correct permits required to display Asian elephants and found no permit violations.

Elephants at the Armory in downtown Albany.
Elephants at the Armory in downtown Albany.

Raccoon at a State Prison - St. Lawrence County

On March 25, ECO Joel Schneller was contacted by a Sergeant at the Ogdensburg Correctional Facility regarding a raccoon causing a disturbance at the prison. The raccoon had entered the prison grounds, perched itself on a gate, and wouldn't leave. ECO Schneller responded to the scene and, with the aid of his newly issued catch pole, captured and removed the raccoon from the facility. ECO Schneller released the raccoon unharmed just outside the prison fence at the edge of nearby woods.

Raccoon on prison gate, in catch pole, and released nearby.
Raccoon on prison gate, in catch pole, and released nearby.
Raccoon on prison gate, in catch pole, and released nearby.
Raccoon on prison gate, in catch pole, and released nearby.

Snow Goose Season Not Swan Season - Steuben County

On February 28, ECO Tim Machnica responded to Loon Lake in the town of Wayland to investigate a report of the illegal shooting of two swans. ECO Machnica interviewed the two people reported to be involved, a grandmother and her grandson. The younger hunter was hunting for snow geese when he misidentified his targets and shot two Tundra Swans, which are a protected species with no hunting season. The carcasses and meat were seized and tickets were issued returnable to Wayland Town Court. Additionally, Machnica educated the grandmother and grandson on the importance of properly identifying targets before shooting.

Construction Debris Burning - Erie County

On March 27, ECO Mark Mazurkiewicz received a complaint of construction debris being burned in the town of Holland. He located a pile of debris burning in a large fire pit surrounded by cinder blocks and interviewed the homeowner and the homeowner's brother. Both were involved in partially demolishing and then remodeling the house where the debris originated. The brothers, who also operate a small residential construction company, said they were not aware that it was unlawful to burn material from the demolition. ECO Mazurkiewicz issued a ticket for prohibited burning in an open fire, returnable to the Holland Town Court.

Construction debris being burned illegally.
Construction debris being burned illegally.

A Dancing Machine - Queens County

On March 19, ECOs Lucas Palmateer and Michael Hameline were travelling along the Brooklyn Queens Expressway when they came upon what appeared to be a disabled motor vehicle along the shoulder of the highway. This is a common occurrence that would typically not draw the ECOs' attention. However, an older gentleman with a walker standing at the rear of the vehicle raised their concern. They stopped to assist, assuming the car simply had a flat tire. However, the car belonged to a quick acting livery driver who had spotted the gentleman pushing his walker down the side of the busy highway and stopped to assist him. The taxi driver was able to act as an interpreter as the gentleman spoke only Spanish. Through speaking with the gentleman, the officers found that he had taken the wrong train and was lost, attempting to make his way back to his temporary home at a shelter. ECOs Palmateer and Hameline determined the shelter's location and drove the gentleman there, more than four miles away. When dropping the gentleman off at the shelter, one of the workers stated that the man had left earlier in the day to go dancing, something he does routinely.

ECO Palmateer assisting the elderly gentleman alongside the BQE.
ECO Palmateer assisting the elderly gentleman alongside the BQE.

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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