Department of Environmental Conservation

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For Release: Wednesday, June 21, 2017

DEC Environmental Conservation Officer Highlights

ECO Actions for Early to Mid-June

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 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:

Orphaned Fawn - Orange County

On June 5, ECO Kimberly Garnsey received a call from the New York State Police (NYSP) out of Middletown reporting a fawn on the side of the highway. A caller explained that the fawn had been there for two days beside its mother, who had been killed by a vehicle. ECOs Kimberly Garnsey and Melissa Burgess captured the fawn, which they determined to be only a few days old. The ECOs transported the fawn to Flannery Animal Hospital for medical treatment and then placed it with caregivers at the Orphaned Wildlife Center in Otisville.

ECOs Kimberly Garnsey and Melissa Burgess with the orphaned fawn.
ECOs Kimberly Garnsey and Melissa Burgess with the orphaned fawn.

The K-9 Nose Knows - Nassau County

On June 5, ECO Michael Unger and U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFW) Special Agent Curtis Knights were investigating the unlawful possession of an alligator and various exotic animals when a complaint regarding poaching of striped bass was received via Region 1 Dispatch. The complainant witnessed a fisherman catching striped bass in North Woodmere Park and putting the fish into the trunk of his car. The fisherman had already packed up and exited the park but a license plate provided an address. While en route, the officers spotted the fisherman's vehicle and followed for a short period. A man and a woman exited the vehicle and entered a large apartment building in Far Rockaway. ECO Unger requested assistance from ECO Christopher DeRose and K-9 Cramer. Once on scene, K-9 Cramer quickly confirmed the presence of striped bass in the vehicle. Officers Unger and Knights interviewed the owner of the vehicle, who said he had two striped bass in his trunk. An inspection revealed five 40-inch striped bass. The fish were seized and the fisherman issued a summons for Possession of Striped Bass Over the Daily Recreational Limit, returnable to Nassau First District Court in July.

ECO Chris DeRose, K-9 Cramer, and ECO Michael Unger with seized striped bass.
ECO Chris DeRose, K-9 Cramer, and ECO Michael Unger
with seized striped bass.

Pet Albino Burmese Python - Orange County

On June 9, ECO Lattimer was contacted by New Windsor Animal Control stating they received a complaint of an extremely large snake being kept as a pet. ECO Lattimer visited the residence and spoke with the homeowner, who said he owned a pet albino Burmese python, currently in the backyard. ECO Lattimer went with the homeowner around back and observed an approximately 20-foot long snake slithering down the back stairs into the basement. ECO Lattimer then asked the owner if he possessed the necessary license for the snake; he did not. At this point, the owner asked if he could give the snake to a friend in New Jersey. ECO Lattimer contacted NJ Fish & Wildlife and confirmed that no license is needed to possess a Burmese python in that state. The snake was photographed and transferred to New Jersey that day. The owner of the snake was issued a ticket for Possessing a Wild Animal without a Permit, returnable to the Town of New Windsor Court.

Illegally possessed pet albino Burmese python.
Illegally possessed pet albino Burmese python.

Dead Sturgeon in NY Harbor - Kings County

On June 9, ECO Adam Johnson got a call about two dead Atlantic sturgeon that washed ashore in Brooklyn. Atlantic sturgeon are a regulated and protected species. ECO Johnson saw that one sturgeon was decomposing on the rocks and that the other was floating just off shore. After pulling one sturgeon to shore, ECO Johnson began inspecting the carcasses for identification tags and possible cause of death. The head and tail of one of the carcasses had been removed in what could have been an attempt to make the species unidentifiable. No wildlife study identification tags were found on the sturgeon, so detailed photos were taken and sent to DEC Fisheries staff to be used for further species research. With the assistance of employees from a nearby fish market, the sturgeon were properly disposed. All evidence collected at the scene will be used to help evaluate data about the species, and the investigation remains ongoing.

ECO Johnson examining the sturgeon.
ECO Johnson examining the sturgeon.

The World is Not Your Oyster - Queens County

On June 10, while performing a shellfish detail in Queens, ECOs JT Rich and Lucas Palmateer noticed three women harvesting shellfish from the shore on the West side of the bay. It is illegal to harvest shellfish from New York City waters due to pollution, but occasionally people harvest shellfish with the intention of selling them to local restaurants and markets. This creates a potential health hazard for customers. The ECOs watched from approximately 300 yards away as the subjects continued to pick shellfish by hand out of the mud and place them in plastic bags. ECOs Rich and Palmateer observed several bags hidden behind rocks. A total of 18 bags containing approximately 600 oysters were seized by the ECOs. The oysters were returned to the water and the three subjects were issued summonses for Taking Shellfish from Uncertified Waters, returnable to Queens County Court.

Some of the bags of oysters seized by ECOs Rich and Palmateer.
Some of the bags of oysters seized by ECOs
Rich and Palmateer.

Open Burn of Prohibited Materials - Ulster County

On June 10, ECO Jeannette Bastedo was on patrol in Saugerties when she observed an open burn. Upon closer inspection, she found a smoldering pile of leaves, grass clippings, plastic materials, dry wall, and garbage. ECO Bastedo issued a ticket for Open Burn of Prohibited Materials to the resident and the fire was extinguished. The ticket is returnable to the Town of Saugerties Court.

Pile of leaves, dry wall, plastics, and other garbage.
Pile of leaves, dry wall, plastics, and other garbage.

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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