Department of Environmental Conservation

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For Release: Wednesday, October 18, 2017

DEC Environmental Conservation Officer Highlights

ECO Actions for Late September to Early October

New York State Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) Environmental Conservation Police 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.
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).

"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:

Fish Finder - Suffolk County
On Sept. 29, ECO Chris DeRose received a complaint of a fishing party at Robert Moses State Park in Babylon that appeared to be catching fish and keeping them. The complainant suspected the subjects were either hiding the caught fish in the rocks or relaying them back to their car. ECO DeRose and K-9 Cramer responded and spotted a male fisherman waiting to be picked up in the parking lot. ECO DeRose interviewed both men, who claimed to have caught nothing. ECO DeRose quickly found a green tote bag on a dirt path near the roadway that contained 16 out-of-season Tautog (Blackfish) and an undersized Black Sea Bass. K-9 Cramer, who is trained in the detection of fish, showed particular interest in a patch of high grass and ECO DeRose found nine additional out-of-season Tautog. The suspects were issued a total of five tickets for charges including possession of out of season Tautog, possession of undersized Black Sea Bass, and failure to carry a valid Marine Registry. If convicted, the illegal catch carries a maximum fine of $2,600. All of the violations are returnable to Suffolk County First District Court on Nov. 1.

ECO Chris DeRose and K-9 Cramer with illegal catch
ECO Chris DeRose and K-9 Cramer with illegal catch

It Wasn't Me, It Was My Brother - Orange County
On Oct. 1, ECO Melissa Burgess received a call from a group of hunters reporting a trespasser who had shot a deer on the property where the hunters had exclusive permission to hunt in the town of Woodbury. One hunter had heard the sound of a bow being fired twice from a nearby tree stand, and had approached the stand to further investigate. As he approached, a hunter he did not recognize fled on foot. The hunter pursed the unknown man on foot and caught up to him and another unknown hunter. He requested to see their hunting licenses, and noted they had no back tags. Both men replied that their licenses where in their truck and, upon arriving at the vehicle, the two men produced hunting licenses that appeared to be expired. The hunter took pictures of the licenses and vehicle license plate and the other two hunters left the area. ECO Burgess tracked down the location of the hunter identified as the subject that fired the arrows at the doe for an initial interview. The man possessed a valid hunting license, but had not been out hunting that day. Instead, he had given his license to his brother. The man was issued an appearance ticket for Transferring his Hunting License to Another Individual. ECO Burgess located the brother in question, and the man confessed to not possessing a hunting license and to shooting the doe. The man was issued several tickets, including Possessing the License of Another, Hunting without a License, Taking a Doe Deer without a Permit, and Failure to Tag Deer as Required. The deer was donated to a cadet-only sportsman education course at the United States Military Academy at West Point for a live field dressing demonstration. The summonses are returnable to the Town of Woodbury Court.

ECO Burgess with West Point staff and the donated deer
ECO Burgess with West Point staff and the donated deer

Dangerous Crossing - Oswego County
On Sept. 5, Major Matt Revenaugh was working at the DEC Training Academy in Pulaski when an individual rushed in asking staff to call 911. The person explained that a car had just been hit by a train at the CSX crossing on Centerville Road, near the Academy. Major Revenaugh and Sgt. Kati Reynolds grabbed first aid equipment and rushed to the scene, where they found a silver SUV pushed nearly 100 yards down the track from the crossing. A quick assessment revealed the elderly vehicle operator was suffering only minor cuts and scrapes. Had the train operator been unable to stop the train, the car and operator would have ended up making the 50-foot drop from the railway bridge into the Salmon River. Evidence at the scene indicated the driver failed to observe the warnings at the crossing and drove through the crossing arm and into the path of the moving train.

Sgt. Reynolds and State Police at the accident scene
Sgt. Reynolds and State Police at the accident scene

Lost Cell Phone Leads to Deer Poaching Case - Suffolk County
On the night of Oct. 7, ECO Kyle Bevis received information from two Nissequogue Police Officers about a complaint of multiple individuals walking in the woods of the David Weld Nature Preserve with flashlights. One of the officers at the scene requested ECO assistance because the subject's pickup truck contained hunting equipment in the bed of the vehicle. While being questioned, the subjects claimed they were searching for a lost cell phone misplaced earlier in the day while walking the property. One of the men claimed to have shot two doe deer earlier in the day when hunting a different property. ECO Bevis contacted ECOs Tim Fay and Chris DeRose to assist with the investigation. ECO DeRose conducted another interview of the subjects before advising that he was going to have K-9 Cramer search the woods for evidence. The subject then changed his story and admitted that he had shot two deer in the nature preserve earlier in the day and had lost his cell phone. He advised the ECOs that they would find both gut piles in the woods on the preserve and that his friends had helped him remove the deer from the property. K-9 Cramer assisted ECOs DeRose and Fay to the blood trails and gut piles. ECOs DeRose and Fay then went to the location where the deer were being stored. The subject was issued an appearance ticket for two counts of unlawful taking of protected wildlife and two counts of possession of untagged deer. The subject's archery equipment and the two deer were seized as evidence. The case is pending in Suffolk County 1st District Court.

Illegal Wood Ducks - Saratoga County
On Oct. 7, ECO Rob Higgins was conducting compliance checks on waterfowl hunters when he heard a radio call for a duck-hunting complaint in the town of Ballston. State Trooper Matt Wilski responded on the radio that he would be responding and ECO Higgins responded to investigate. After arriving on scene, ECO Higgins located three duck hunters in the woods along with nine wood ducks and a mallard. During the investigation, ECO Higgins found one of the hunters possessed an unplugged shotgun and did not possess a duck stamp. The second hunter was in compliance, but the third hunter did not have a valid hunting license, a HIP number, or a signed duck stamp. ECO Higgins issued tickets for the violations, two of the nine wood ducks were determined to be illegally taken, and the case is pending in the Town of Ballston Court.

ECO Rob Higgins and Trooper Matt Wilski with illegally taken wood ducks
ECO Rob Higgins and Trooper Matt Wilski with illegally taken wood ducks

The Grass is Greener -- Brooklyn
On Oct. 7, ECOs Waldemar Auguscinski and Evan McFee were on a joint boat patrol aboard vessel A-12 with two officers from New Jersey Fish and Wildlife when they responded to a radio call of a "situation" underneath the Verrazano-Narrows Bridge. Several patrol boats from FDNY Marine 8 and NYPD Harbor were already on scene when the ECOs arrived to find a resting 6-point buck below the bridge. The deer had apparently swum the entire width of the Narrows from Staten Island and climbed up on the rocks to rest. The officers planned to guide the deer back to Staten Island using catch poles and ropes from the boat if necessary. However, the strong tide pushed the deer toward the open ocean. Using catch poles and ropes, the officers guided the deer across approximately one mile of open water. As the deer grew tired over the long swim, ECO McFee, the two New Jersey Conservation Officers, and a NYPD Harbor Officer managed to get ropes around the deer's antlers and midsection to support its body during the final portion of the swim. As they approached the shore, ECO McFee and the firefighters loosened the ropes and catch pole and the deer walked up the beach under its own power. The deer was last seen walking up the brushy embankment in Staten Island, still wondering how the grass tastes in Brooklyn.

Guiding the deer through the Verrazano Narrows
Guiding the deer through the Verrazano Narrows

Poaching Deer on Staten Island
On Oct. 10, ECO Jarrod Lomozik was contacted by NYPD's 123rd Precinct about an individual that had been arrested after being observed in a tree stand in a city park with a crossbow by an off-duty police officer. ECO Lomozik and Investigator Ed Piwko responded to the 123rd Precinct to investigate the illegal hunting complaint. Piwko determined that the individual had placed a bait pile in the park the day before and had returned to hunt that evening. The illegal hunter was charged with two misdemeanors by NYPD and six Conservation Law violations, including Illegally Pursuing Protected Wildlife, Failing to Possess Muzzle Loading Privilege while Using a Crossbow to Take Deer, Failing to Wear Back Tag While Hunting, Hunting with an Unlawful Crossbow, Failing to Carry Crossbow Safety Certificate While Hunting Wildlife, and Hunting Deer Over Bait. The individual's crossbow, personal effects, and vehicle were also seized by NYPD.

Going After That One Fish - Chautauqua County
On Oct. 11, ECO Chris Freeman was conducting foot patrol along Canadaway Creek in the town of Dunkirk when he was approached by a concerned fisherman who explained that he had observed a fisherman standing on a log attempting to snag some vulnerable steelhead along the bank of the creek. A few minutes later, ECO Freeman caught up with the suspected fisherman still fishing from the log. ECO Freeman watched as the fisherman dropped his line straight down in front of him and rip upward in a clear snagging motion. The fisherman repeated this action several times before finally hooking a steelhead. Hooking up with the fish made the fisherman loose his balance and fall into the creek. After unhooking the fish, rather than releasing it, the fisherman headed toward the road where he was met by ECO Freeman. When confronted with his illegal fishing tactics, the fisherman admitted that knew he was in violation but simply stated "It looked like an easy catch." The fisherman was issued two tickets for taking steelhead by snatching and for keeping a foul hooked steelhead, returnable to the Town of Dunkirk Court.

ECO Freeman with the illegally caught steelhead
ECO Freeman with the illegally caught steelhead

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