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For Release: Wednesday, August 2, 2017

DEC Environmental Conservation Officer Highlights

ECO Actions for Mid-July

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:

Injured Peregrine Falcon - Kings County

On July 8, ECOs Zach Brown, Brian Gustitus and Jonathan Walraven and intern Kenton Archer were on patrol when ECO Gustitus received a call regarding an injured Peregrine Falcon in North Brooklyn. Upon arrival, the ECOs found the bird in the doorway of a local business, unable to fly or move its left wing. ECO Brown, who had worked for DEC's Division of Wildlife prior to becoming an ECO, was able to pick up the bird and secure it safely in a box for transport. The injured Peregrine Falcon was then brought to the Wild Bird Fund located in Manhattan, where it will undergo further examination and medical care.

ECO Walraven, DLE Intern Kenton Archer, ECO Gustitus, and ECO Brown with the injured Peregrine Falcon at the Wild Bird Fund in Manhattan.
ECO Walraven, DLE Intern Kenton Archer, ECO Gustitus, and
ECO Brown with the injured Peregrine Falcon at the Wild Bird
Fund in Manhattan

Busy Week at Captree State Park - Suffolk County

On July 11, ECO Chris DeRose was on patrol at the north pier of Captree State Park in the town of Islip when he spotted some fishermen and crabbers. At the far end of the pier were two men who appeared to be experienced crabbers. They were in possession of just over 80 crabs, slightly below their combined limit of 100. The two crabbers were eager to show their catch for inspection, which ECO DeRose found to be unusual. Suspecting more crabs hidden nearby, ECO DeRose looked in a garbage nearby and found a red plastic bag containing more than 20 crabs, almost all in spawn. Both crabbers denied the bag of crabs belonged to them but when ECO DeRose went back to their vehicles with them to retrieve their identifications, he noticed an identical bag on the floor of the driver's seat. At this point, the men stopped denying catching the extra crabs, and a full check of their catch found them to be in possession of a total of 109 crabs. Each subject was issued three summonses for possession over the limit of crabs, possession of undersized crabs and possession of crabs in spawn. On July 14 and July 15, ECO Nathan Godson investigated several more tips regarding poaching activity at Captree State Park that led to the issuing of six citations for possessing undersize black sea bass, undersized fluke, undersized blue claw crabs and blue claw crabs in spawn. All of the cases are returnable to the Suffolk County 1st District Court.

Illegally caught black sea bass
Crabs in a bucket.
Illegally caught blue crabs
Illegally possessed black sea bass and crabs from Captree State Park.

That's Odd - St. Lawrence County

On July 13, ECO Scott Atwood was nearing the end of an evening shift when he observed what appeared to be a person using a flashlight on a commercial property in the town of Pierrepont. As ECO Atwood left his patrol vehicle to investigate further, he could hear loud banging noises coming from the property. ECO Atwood observed an individual closing the door of a vehicle that belonged to a commercial business. As he continued to watch, ECO Atwood saw the subject walk to another truck and begin rifling through one of the side utility boxes. ECO Atwood contacted the subject and, after a brief interview, determined that the subject was trespassing and placed the subject under arrest. A search of the subject revealed a hypodermic needle, a lighter, and a spoon containing an unknown residue, which the subject later admitted was used for shooting drugs. ECO Atwood contacted the St. Lawrence County Sheriff's Department and requested assistance. The suspect was charged with trespassing, possession of burglar tools, and criminal possession of a hypodermic needle. The residue was sent to be tested by the drug task force to determine the type of drug.

Sergeant Outreach - Warren County

On July 14, Tech. Sgt. Taryn Czora from DLE's Quartermaster Unit in Albany attended a career day at DEC Camp at Pack Forest in the town of Warrensburg. She spoke to approximately 60 campers between the ages of 14 to 17 regarding Environmental Conservation Law, how to become an ECO, police training academy, and working for the state. She was well received by campers and counselors alike, as she was a Camp Counselor for the DEC at camps DeBruce and Rushford prior to becoming an ECO. Other speakers included DEC representatives from the Division of Water, Education, Communications and Forestry.

Sgt. Czora with a group of campers at Pack Forest.
Sgt. Czora with a group of campers at Pack Forest.

Back to their Homes - Suffolk County

On July 17, ECOs Evan Laczi and Ben Tabor took possession of 2,000 oysters and 2,000 clams from a seafood dealer in West Babylon with a value of approximately $1,600. DEC staff had previously discovered that the shellfish had been held outside of the required temperature control, making them unfit for sale. Frequently, ECOs destroy seized shellfish, but ECOs Laczi and Tabor instead opted to "re-seed" the oysters and clams in the waters just outside Oyster Bay in a conditional closed area. Within a few weeks of being back in the water, the shellfish will be able to spawn new generations.

ECO Laczi re-seeding seized shellfish.
ECO Tabor re-seeding seized shellfish.
ECOs Laczi and Tabor "re-seeding" seized shellfish.

Big Bear in the City - Steuben County

In the early morning hours of July 17, ECO Matthew Baker received a call from the Hornell Police Department requesting assistance with a black bear within the city limits. ECO Baker responded and spoke with a Hornell City Police Officer, who was standing by monitoring the bear from about 30 feet away as it was resting under a tree. Officer Baker contacted Lt. Matthew Lochner and DEC biologists for assistance with the bear, as he determined it would need to be tranquilized to safely remove it from city limits. ECO Baker and Hornell PD stood by, keeping the public away from the bear until the biologists arrived. The bear was successfully darted and tagged and weighed in at an impressive 340 pounds before being moved and released at a nearby state forest property.

ECO Baker and the tranquilized bear
ECO Baker and the tranquilized bear

Helicopter Water Landing - Suffolk County

On the morning of July 19, Lt. Sean Reilly and ECOs Jeremy Eastwood and Jordan Doroski responded to a call of a helicopter emergency landing in the Atlantic Ocean approximately one mile south of Gilgo Beach in the town of Babylon. Shortly before the ECOs arrived at the scene, the occupants of the helicopter were safely taken off the downed helicopter by life guards and NYPD aviation divers. The aircraft, which was equipped with emergency inflatable pontoons, was completely intact with no apparent damage. Vessels responded to tow the helicopter to shore, and the ECOs and officers from U.S. Coast Guard Fire Island Station stayed on scene and cleared Fire Island Inlet for the safe passage of the aircraft in tow.

Emergency landing off Gilgo Beach

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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