Department of Environmental Conservation

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For Release: Wednesday, September 20, 2017

DEC Environmental Conservation Officer Highlights

ECO Actions for Early September

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:

Alligator and Rattlesnake Parts at Flea Market - Dutchess County

On Sept. 2, ECO Deo Read received information that two booths at the Stormville Flea Market were allegedly offering protected wildlife parts for sale. ECO Read searched for the booths, finding one selling an alligator head, feet, jawbones, and teeth, and rattlesnake hides. The seller claimed the parts were legal. The ECO explained to the subject that he would need a permit to possess/sell any of these items in New York State. The seller was issued three summons for possessing and offering the animal parts for sale without a permit. The seller was given the Special License Office telephone number and told he should inquire about getting the required permits. The seller removed the items in question from sale and the case is pending in Town of East Fishkill Court.

Illegal Alligator Head on a table
Illegal Rattlesnake parts in a display
Illegal alligator head and illegal rattlesnake items for sale

Unhealthy Raptors - Otsego and Delaware Counties

On Sept. 3, ECOs Russell Fetterman and Ryan Wing, a recent graduate of the 21st Basic Academy on Aug. 25, rescued an ill great horned owl in the town of Laurens, Otsego County. On Sept. 4, ECO Nate Doig responded to a report of a sick red tailed hawk in the town of Hamden, Delaware County. Both birds were taken to licensed wildlife rehabilitators for evaluation and treatment with the hopes of returning the birds to the wild.

ECO with great horned owl
ECO with Red Tailed Hawk
ECOs with the great horned owl and the red tailed hawk

Garbage Dumper Confesses - Sullivan County

On Sept. 4, ECOs Tom Koepf and Corey Hornicek received a complaint that garbage had been dumped at a public fishing access at the Bashakill Wildlife Management Area in the town of Mamakating. The officers arrived and began to sort through five large contractor bags full of food waste and household garbage. Two pieces of incriminating evidence were found in the trash, both of which included an address in the nearby village of Wurtsboro. The two officers drove to the suspect's residence the next day for an interview. The 22-year-old male suspect denied dumping the garbage at first, but later confessed and apologized after being confronted with the evidence. Two tickets were issued to the man for Unlawful Disposal of Solid Waste and Depositing a Noisome/Unwholesome Substance On or Near a Public Highway.

ECO standing in the illegally dumped garbage
ECO Hornicek pictured with garbage dumped
at the Bashakill WMA

Illegal September Buck - Orange County

On Sept. 6, ECO Chris Lattimer received a call that someone had shot a buck near Union Avenue in the town of New Windsor. ECO Lattimer called DEC Wildlife staff and found that no deer damage permits were issued in that area. Officer Lattimer spoke with the New Windsor Police Department dispatcher who had taken the original call from the shooter, who reported that he had shot the buck under a deer damage permit and was unable to find it. He had left his number and asked to be contacted if anyone found the deer. ECOs Corey Hornicek, Tom Koepf, and Lattimer went to the area in question and within 20 minutes, ECO Koepf located a dead 8-point buck. ECO Hornicek removed the bullet and, as the deer did not appear to be fit for consumption, photographed it and retained the head and bullet as evidence. ECO Lattimer then contacted the subject who had reported shooting the deer, who then stated that he was hunting the nearby apple orchard on a deer damage permit. However, the permit was for a location in Ulster County. Charges are pending for multiple violations of the Environmental Conservation Law.

ECO's with a large illegally killed buck
ECO's Hornicek, Koepf, and Lattimer with an illegally killed Buck

Pimping a Polar Bear on Craigslist - Bronx County

On Sept. 7, Division of Law Enforcement investigators and ECOs worked together to coordinate and execute an undercover operation involving the unlawful sale of a polar bear skin rug. In New York State, it is illegal to sell polar bear skin without obtaining the proper permits. The person selling the rug offered it as a private sale on Craigslist from his home in the Bronx. Investigators contacted the seller and arranged to purchase the rug for $15,000. One investigator and an officer entered the residence in plain clothes, with uniformed members waiting around the block. Once the officers observed the rug and the offer for sale was finalized, the officers identified themselves and seized the rug as evidence. Closer inspection revealed that the rug was authentic polar bear skin. The individual was written a notice of violation and charges are currently pending. He faces a class E felony charge and up to $2,350 in civil penalties.

An illegal polar bear rug in front of the officers that confiscated it
Polar Bear rug seized during investigation

A Sticky Situation - Orange County

On Sept. 9, the opening day of early bear season, ECOs Max Nicols and Lucas Palmateer were patrolling Pochuk Mountain State Forest in Warwick. Multiple vehicles were parked at the trailhead, and one vehicle in particular caught the ECOs' attention when they noticed a box containing jars of honey visible on the passenger seat. The officers spoke with three hunters that had just returned from bear hunting at a nearby camp site, where they spotted jars of honey, a bag of apples, and an empty jar of peanut butter on the ground. Recognizing these items as possible bear bait, the ECOs engaged the hunters in conversation about where they planned on hunting in the morning. The next day, ECOs Nicols and Palmateer returned to Pochuk State Forest and located the hunters in the area described. The hunters immediately began to pack up and leave. The ECOs checked the area for bait, and again located two piles of illegal bait -- cold cut meats and sausages, pastries, peanut butter, and multiple piles of white rice stuck together with honey. They called the hunters back to their location. However, one of the hunters took off running down the mountain. ECO Nicols caught him at the campsite while ECO Palmateer stayed with the other hunters. All three hunters were issued tickets for Hunting Bear with the Aid of a Pre-Established Bait Pile and the subject who fled was issued a ticket for Failing to Comply with a Lawful Order of a Conservation Officer.

ECO's kneeling next to the Orange and rice mixture for illegally baiting bears
ECOs Nicols and Palmateer with the honey/rice mixture

Illegal Deer Hunting at Night - St. Lawrence County

On Sept. 9, ECO Joel Schneller received a call from a complainant regarding the shooting of a pair of white tail deer that had been illegally taken earlier that evening in the town of Russell, St. Lawrence County. The man was later interviewed and admitted to taking both deer from a field located on West Road in Russell. He was charged with taking a deer with the aid of an artificial light, possession of a loaded firearm in a motor vehicle, discharging a firearm from a public highway, and taking deer during the closed season. In addition to the misdemeanors, he was also charged with the violations of hunting without a license, taking deer from a public highway, failure to tag deer, and using rim fire ammunition to hunt deer. If convicted, the subject faces combined fines up to $10,000, revocation of hunting privileges for up to five years, and forfeiture of the rifle used during the illegal activity. All charges are pending in the Town of Russell Court. ECO Bret Canary contributed to the investigation.

Two illegally taken large bucks in the back of a truck
Two large bucks taken illegally in St. Lawrence County

The Old Oyster-Toad-Fish-In-A-Bag Trick - New York County

On Sept. 9, ECOs Spencer Noyes, Jason Smith, and Adam Johnson were conducting surveillance of fishermen along the East River when they noticed a man catching fish, stuffing them into a bag, and hiding the bag in nearby bushes. As darkness approached, ECO Noyes approached the man nonchalantly and asked how the fishing was, to which the man smiled and said, "No fish." ECO Noyes told the man to look behind him, and to the man's dismay, there were ECOs Johnson and Smith holding two black plastic bags. The man quickly confessed to catching two Oyster Toad Fish, which were both undersized. The fish were still alive and returned to the East River. The man was issued two summons returnable to New York County Court in November.

Undersized Oyster Toad Fish
Two undersized Oyster Toad Fish

If you witness an environmental crime or believe a violation of environmental law has occurred, please call the DEC Division of Law Enforcement hotline at 1-844-DEC-ECOS (1-844-332-3267).

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