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For Release: Wednesday, August 30, 2017

DEC Environmental Conservation Officer Highlights

ECO Actions for Mid-August

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, the 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:

Unlawful Discharge of Sewage - Sullivan County

On August 8, ECOs Ricky Wood and Tom Koepf joined a Rockland Code Enforcement Officer to investigate a complaint concerning a camp in Livingston Manor suspected of a septic waste violation. Upon arrival, the ECOs observed what appeared to be recent repairs to a failing camp septic tank and several other failing portions of a septic waste system. ECO Wood then walked down to the Sprague Brook tributary and spotted a wastewater pipe discharging directly into the protected trout stream. The camp was charged with Operating a Point Source Discharge into the Waters of the State without a valid SPDES permit and for Polluting Waters of the State in Contravention of Water Quality Standards. All charges are pending in the Town of Rockland Court, and the penalties for each offense range from $3,750 to $37,500 per day. DEC Division of Water and NYS Department of Health were immediately notified and are working together to remedy the situation.

sewage running down a cliff via a pipe
Sewage discharging directly into a trout stream
sewage running down a cliff via a pipe, viewed from top of the cliff

Deer and Dope - Sullivan County

On August 9, ECOs Ricky Wood and Tom Koepf responded to a Monticello residence for a call regarding a fawn deer. At the site, the officers observed an unlawfully possessed fawn deer in a fenced-in area of the backyard. Further inspection revealed that the deer was next to a garden containing multiple marijuana plants. The Sullivan County Sheriff's Office was contacted and responded with detectives seizing the marijuana plants. The homeowner was interviewed and issued an appearance ticket for the Unlawful Possession of Protected Wildlife. He was later charged by the Sullivan County Sheriff's Office for the illegal marijuana. All charges are pending in the Town of Thompson Court.

A deer in a fenced-in area
The deer
marijuana plants in a fenced-in area
the marijuana

ECOs Remove 37 Wild Animals from Warehouse - Westchester County

On August 9, ECOs Dustin Dainack, Craig Tompkins, Anthony Drahms, and Wes Leubner, along with members of the New York State Police, assisted wildlife rehabilitators in the removal of 37 animals from deplorable conditions inside a Westchester County warehouse. The animals included two alligators, one large Burmese python, one large reticulated python, three ball pythons, a monitor lizard, multiple corn snakes, rat and water snakes, multiple turtles, frogs, and one cat. The former owner of the animals was charged with Possession of Wild Animals without a Permit and is currently in jail on unrelated charges. The subject was officially evicted from the warehouse and the animals were turned over to DEC-certified wildlife rehabilitators for care and final placement.

an ECO lifting a snake from a tank
ECOs Tompkins and Drahms taking inventory
of the snakes
an ECO handling a snake with gloves on

Unexpected Catch - Suffolk County
August 10, ECOs Jeremy Eastwood and Brian Farrish were on a boat patrol in Little Peconic Bay in Southold when the officers found three subjects whose catch grossly exceeded marine fishing limits. The three subjects had 88 scup (porgy) over the limit and 24 weakfish over the limit, including 12 undersized weakfish. Each subject was issued tickets for the illegal fish returnable to Southold Town Court. The fish were donated to Community Action Southold Town (CAST), a not-for-profit organization created to help low-income residents.

an ECO sorting fish in coolers
ECO Farrish sorting and counting illegally possessed fish

Always on Duty - Suffolk County
August 12, Lt. Tom Gadomski was off duty in the town of Southold when he observed illegal fishing activity. The location overlooks the Long Island Sound, and a family was camped out on the beach keeping everything they caught, including undersized illegal scup (porgy). ECO Jeremy Eastwood was called and responded to find a large cooler full of fish. Of the 125 fish he measured, 78 were undersized. The subjects were issued tickets for the violation returnable to the Town of Southold Court.

A woman standing next to rows of scups on a beach
Woman with 78 undersized scup

Commercial Fishing Violations - Suffolk County
On August 13, ECOs Chris Amato, Tim Fay, and Kait Grady patrolled Montauk Point for commercial fishing activity. When they checked a boat coming into Inlet Seafood after a six-day fishing trip, they found that the vessel crew had hidden 340 pounds of overage fluke in the fish hold behind empty boxes. The crew had also hidden a finned thresher shark, black sea bass (out of season), and several pounds of filleted fluke, black sea bass, and striped bass. NOAA officer Ian Isaacs and Marine Enforcement Unit ECOs Ike Bobseine and Evan Laczi responded to assist with the investigation. In addition to the fish violations, the boat crew received tickets for a falsified Vessel Trip Report (VTR), untagged quota managed species, mutilation of species, and a violation for wrong net mesh size. Charges are pending in East Hampton Town Court.

an ECO examining net mesh with fish in it
ECOs measuring the net mesh size of a commercial
fishing vessel

Nice, Not Naughty, Raccoons - Genesee County

On August 14, ECO Gary Wilson received a call from a concerned citizen in Batavia who had encountered what he described as a "vicious raccoon." The man stated that on the previous day, a raccoon in his driveway would not let him get out of his truck. He captured the raccoon in a cage trap and reported that it was still acting aggressively. ECO Wilson responded and found there were actually two raccoons in separate cage traps, both appearing to be in good health. The ECO also found a large amount of cat food. The complainant and his acquaintance explained that they feed the local feral cats and set cage traps for them. The subjects' intention is to capture the strays and have them sterilized for reintroduction back to the wild. ECO Wilson explained to the duo that cat food provides an easy meal for raccoons, and that the trapped raccoons were acting as wild animals typically would when confined or cornered. Both raccoons were returned to the wild.

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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