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For Release: Wednesday, January 10, 2018

DEC Environmental Conservation Police Officer Highlights

ECO Actions for Late December and Early January

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 2017, the 301 ECOs across the state responded to 23,276 calls and issued 27,428 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:

Timber Theft - Sullivan County

On Dec. 27, Lt. Mike Buckley and ECO Tom Koepf wrapped up a timber theft investigation in Fallsburg. In November, the officers received a call from a landowner stating that six large ash trees had been cut on his property without his permission. The landowner informed the ECOs that the most likely suspect was his neighbor. ECO Koepf interviewed several people in the area; one provided a written statement stating that he had observed the suspect removing trees from the complainant's land. The officer also checked with the local saw mill and obtained a copy of a receipt in their records, showing that the man had recently delivered ash logs to the mill for sale. The ECOs interviewed the suspect and issued a misdemeanor ticket for removing trees from lands of another (timber theft), returnable to the Town of Fallsburg Court. The subject faces fines of up to $1,000 for the criminal offense, plus $250 in restitution for each tree cut from the property.

Illegally cut ash tree
One of six Ash trees illegally cut

Alan the Facebook Gator - Wayne County

During the summer of 2017, ECO Kevin Thomas received an anonymous complaint about a Facebook post showing an American alligator with the caption, "Just Bought an Alligator!" After multiple attempts to locate the individual responsible for the post, ECO Thomas discovered the man was incarcerated for unrelated activities. A family member stated the suspect had never actually bought the animal, but was just bragging about it. Further investigation led ECO Thomas to an address in a subdivision in the town of Macedon, a large residential neighborhood. On Dec. 27, ECO Thomas interviewed a new suspect, who at first denied ownership of the alligator. After further questioning, the subject voluntarily led ECO Thomas inside his house to show him the alligator. ECO Thomas found the 3.5-foot-long alligator in a large glass tank in a bedroom in the house. The owner stated that the animal was friendly and that he fed it out of his hand, often walking it around the house even though two large dogs live at the residence. The subjects named the alligator "Alan." However, the owner knew that the alligator was getting too big for the tank and the house. As it is illegal in New York to possess any crocodilian family without permits, the animal was confiscated. The Seneca Park Zoo agreed to house the animal temporarily until it can be relocated to a permitted facility. The owner was issued a ticket for possession of an alligator, returnable to Macedon Town Court.

ECO Thomas and Senica Park Zoo Staff holding Alan the Alligator
ECO Thomas, "Alan the Alligator" and Seneca Park Zoo staff

Ice Rescue Training and Polar Plunge - Fulton County

On Jan. 1, ECO Jason Hilliard was invited to train with the Caroga Lake Volunteer Fire Company (CLVFC) in their annual ice rescue training exercise. With the temperature hitting -14, the fire company and ECO Hilliard trained in techniques for the safe extraction of a person that has fallen through the ice. The officer also demonstrated the use of "picks-of-life" for self-rescue from the frigid waters. Following the training exercise, CLVFC staff and ECO Hilliard remained on scene as safety personnel during a Polar Plunge event hosted by the Caroga Lake Marina to benefit the fire company.

ECO Hillard and Caroga Lake Volunteer Fire Company Member Rigging a rescue sled
ECO Hilliard rigging a rescue sled with a
Caroga Lake Volunteer Fire Company member

A Deer on the Floor and Lies Galore - Herkimer County

On Jan. 2, ECO Jeff Hull received a tip that a local venison processor in the town of Newport had multiple harvested deer in his garage. At the garage, ECO Hull found two doe deer properly tagged and hanging and one doe on the floor of the garage missing a tag. The processor provided the either-sex muzzleloading tag he was given with the deer on Dec. 19, the last day of Southern Zone Muzzleloading Season. The tag was not filled out and belonged to a 70-year-old man. With just a phone number and the tag in hand, ECO Hull tracked down the hunter. After interviewing additional subjects involved, ECO Hull sorted through several fabricated stories. After being confronted with conflicting details, two of the men admitted the truth, resulting in one hunter being charged with hunting without a license, possessing tags of another, failure to tag deer as required, failure to report harvest, and illegal take of protected wildlife.

An illegally shot doe laying on the floor
Illegally shot doe that resulted in multiple charges against a hunter
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