Department of Environmental Conservation

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For Release: Wednesday, September 27, 2017

DEC Environmental Conservation Officer Highlights

ECO Actions for Mid-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, 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:

One-Stop Shopping - Cayuga County
On Sept. 8, ECO Mark Colesante spotted a Craigslist ad listing native snakes for sale in the city of Auburn. Initially, ECOs planned to arrange a purchase, but when officers learned the alleged salesman was only 16 years old, they decided to simply interview the subject. The young man said he had not sold any of the 75 native snakes in his possession, including northern water snakes, eastern ribbon snakes, eastern garter snakes, and brown snakes. He also had 25 leopard frogs and three black bass in an aquarium. The subject was educated about the laws of wildlife possession and charged with possessing protected wildlife without a permit. The entire menagerie was released back to the wild.

snakes in a bucket
frogs in a bucket
Native snakes and frogs offered for sale on Craigslist

A Hawk's Lucky Day - Sullivan County
On Sept. 13, ECOs Tom Koepf and Corey Hornicek received a call from an employee of the Livingston Manor Dollar General in the town of Rockland stating he noticed a hawk stuck 40 feet up in a dead tree. The ECOs arrived and found the hawk. They spoke with Livingston Manor Fire Department firefighter Ryan Nead, who called his chief to receive permission to cut the tree down. ECO Hornicek explained that if the firefighter could drop the dead tree into a small tree with lush vegetation next to it, it would cushion the fall and protect the hawk from injury. All went according to plan and the hawk survived the fall injury free. The immature Red-Tailed Hawk was caught in the dead tree because its leather leg straps, commonly used by falconers, were tangled around a branch. The ECOs untangled and carefully removed the bird. The ECOs brought the hawk to a local Master Falconer to care for it while they attempted to find the owner.

ECO holding a hawk and firefighter holding a chainsaw
ECO Corey Hornicek, the rescued hawk, and
Livingston Manor Firefighter Ryan Nead

Lost and Found - Genesee County
On Sept. 15, ECO Fay Fuerch was contacted by a Genesee County Sheriff's Deputy concerning a convicted felon who accidentally shot himself in the leg the night before in the town of Darien. The Deputy requested ECO Fuerch's partner, K-9 Handley, to help locate a .22 caliber rifle that was missing. The victim initially explained that he was holding a .22 round with a pair of pliers and hit the primer end with a hammer causing the round to discharge and enter his leg above his knee and exit near his ankle while he was in a garage on his grandfather's property. This story did not make sense and the grandfather advised that there was a .22 rifle missing from an abandoned vehicle on the property. The victim asked for a lawyer when questioned about the rifle, so its location remained unknown. The grandfather was fully cooperative and gave consent to search the property, including the garage. A quick search of the garage didn't locate the rifle and when K-9 Handley searched the woods and surrounding property, he didn't locate the rifle. ECO Fuerch returned the following day and took a closer look in the garage, locating the rifle hidden among pieces of rebar and other long, slender objects. The grandfather confirmed it was the missing rifle. All of the evidence was turned over to the Sheriff's Department and charges are pending.

Massive Seizure of Illegal Fish - Suffolk County
On Sept. 16, ECOs Jeremy Eastwood, Ben Tabor, Katie Jakuab, and Brendan Dickson were on boat patrol when they observed the fishing charter vessel "Viking Starship" returning to the dock. The ECOs came ashore to conduct checks of the fishermen as they exited the boat. Of the 124 people aboard, dozens abandoned their coolers and buckets containing fish on the boat. However, the ECOs were able to identify and charge 23 defendants with a total of 26 violations for possession of over limit porgy and black sea bass violations. Nine coolers and 19 buckets were abandoned aboard the vessel, as well, and were seized by the ECOs. The captain of the vessel was also cited for an unsecured sanitation device. A total of 1,800 fish were seized and donated to the Bowery Mission in Manhattan and the Riverhead Senior Center.

coolers of fish
ECOs with coolers of fish
Coolers and buckets of fish seized from the "Viking Starship"

Unidentified Shellfish and an Invasive Plant - Albany County

On Sept. 17, ECOs Kimberly Garnsey and Taylor Della Rocco received a complaint from an individual stating that two people had been planting some type of plant in a local pond. ECOs Garnsey and Della Rocco went to the pond and took samples of the plants, which were identified as Watercress (Nasturtium officinale), a fast growing, aquatic species used most frequently in Asian dishes. The ECOs checked the closest Asian market and inquired where the market purchases watercress in an attempt to determine who had been planting the invasive plant. While at the market, the ECOs found approximately 200 shellfish without the appropriate shellfish tags. When the officers interviewed the manager, she stated, "We just throw the tags out." The market was issued two tickets, one for possession of untagged shellfish and one for failure to retain tags as required by law. The shellfish were destroyed, as uncertified shellfish may present a serious health hazard to the public. Both charges are returnable to the Town of Colonie Court. ECOs continue to follow up with the invasive species issue at the pond.

ECO pouring bleach into bucket of shellfish
ECO Garnsey using bleach to destroy illegally
possessed shellfish

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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