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For Release: Wednesday, December 19, 2018

DEC Environmental Conservation Police Officer Highlights

ECO Actions for Late November to Early December

New York State Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) Environmental Conservation Police Officers (ECOs) enforce the 71 Chapters of NY Environmental Conservation Law (ECL), protecting fish and wildlife and preserving environmental quality across New York.

In 2017, the 301 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 DEC 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:

Two is Company, Three's a Crowd, and Four (Deer) are Illegal - Delaware County
On Nov. 27, ECO Dustin Osborne received a complaint that two subjects had just shot a deer from the road in the town of Masonville. Previously, the officer had heard reports of a white minivan with two occupants shooting deer from the road, loading up the deer, and speeding off. ECOs Nathan Doig and Osborne checked the area and located a white minivan parked in the driveway of a nearby residence. When they pulled in, a man and a woman covered in blood appeared from behind the minivan, where they were field dressing two does. The couple, who did not possess hunting licenses, admitted to shooting the deer from the roadway. Two more deer were located on the property, which were also taken from the road. The officers seized the four deer and issued a total of 15 summons to the pair for the illegal taking of deer, taking deer without a hunting license, shooting from a public highway, illegal possession of protected wildlife, and taking deer with the aid of a motor vehicle. All of the charges are pending in the Town of Masonville Court.

The Greedy Hunters Club - Hamilton County
On Nov. 30, ECO Scott Pierce encountered a group of hunters in the Shaker Mountain Wild Forest after hearing several gun shots. ECO Pierce headed into the woods and up a trail, where he found one hunter a short distance away. This hunter had already filled his regular season deer tag and ECO Pierce called Forest Ranger Michael Thompson to stay with the hunter while he continued to investigate. ECO Jason Hilliard and Forest Ranger Andrew Lewis joined the investigation. Ranger Thompson alerted the group that five hunters had just come out to his location dragging a large buck. Of the six hunters, four had already filled their regular season buck tags. Each hunter without valid deer tags claimed to be legally hunting bear, although they were working together to drive deer. The buck had been tagged by one of the hunters with a valid regular season tag. ECO Hilliard followed the trail back to its source and found a shell casing and a set of distinct boot tracks. The tracks matched up to one of the hunters without a valid deer tag. Faced with the evidence, the hunter admitted that he had shot the deer and used another hunter's tag. The deer was seized and the shooter charged with taking deer in excess of the season limit. One hunter was charged with lending deer tags to another, and the three hunters without valid deer tags were charged with hunting deer without a valid license.

Problematic Aquaculture - Suffolk County
On Oct. 3, members of DEC's Division of Law Enforcement Marine Enforcement Unit and Eastern Long Island sector officers documented a large-scale aquaculture operation in Meetinghouse Creek in the town of Riverhead. The subjects were storing oysters in uncertified waters without a permit. ECOs Ike Bobseine, Jordan Doroski, Robert McCabe, Evan Laczi, and Jeremy Eastwood under the supervision of Lt. Sean Reilly, interviewed the owner of the business, documented evidence, and seized the shellfish in place. Approximately 400 bushels of oysters were stored around docks in the creek, which has been documented in the past by DEC's Division of Marine Resources to contain shellfish with Parasitic Shellfish Poisoning (PSP). Due to the considerable risk to public safety, shellfish from the business were embargoed from retail stores and the shellfish at the facility were not allowed to be used for consumption. The enforcement case was handled administratively and by early December, a settlement that included a substantial fine and forfeiture of the oysters was completed. The oysters were transplanted into uncertified waters to prevent harvest for commercial sale. On Dec. 3, ECOs supervised and assisted the aquaculture business with transplanting the oysters into the bay.

ECO on fishing charter with bins of oysters to be transplanted
ECO preparing oysters to be transplanted

One Buck Too Many, Two Houses Too Close - Ulster County
On Dec. 3, ECO Jeannette Bastedo responded to a complaint of a man shooting a buck with a rifle between two houses in a residential area in the town of Esopus. The man had tracked a deer shot and wounded by his daughter several hours earlier. After his daughter stopped hunting to return to work, the father located the deer between two houses about 30 yards apart. The man mistakenly thought it would be acceptable to shoot the deer with his 30-06 caliber rifle in this location. The father had already taken a buck during the regular deer season, making this deer his second. He was issued tickets returnable to the Town of Esopus Court for discharging a firearm within 500 feet of a dwelling, taking over the limit of antlered deer, and illegal taking of deer. The deer was seized and donated.

Large buck on back of ECO vehicle
Buck Taken Illegally in Esopus

Interagency Marine Operation - New York Harbor
On Dec. 4, Lt. Eric Dowling attended a meeting regarding joint operations with the United States Coast Guard, New Jersey Fish & Wildlife, and the National Marine Fisheries Service. The operation was designed to foster information sharing and joint patrol operations while the agencies police the same water. Two days later, the benefits of the meeting were quickly recognized when, while on boat patrol in Jamaica Bay, ECO Waldemar Auguscinski recognized a vessel that NJFW had taken enforcement action against only one month earlier. ECOs were joined by USCG officers and boarded the vessel. The officers found 24 undersized blackfish and no registration number properly displayed. Four summonses were written for over the legal limit and undersized blackfish, as well as a violation written by the Coast Guard for a lack of registration numbers.

ECOs and US Coastguard on dock with blackfish lined up on ground
Undersized blackfish seized on joint agency patrol

Trust Your Gut (Pile) - Ulster County
On Dec. 8, ECO Lucas Palmateer received an anonymous call of an untagged deer laying across the back of an ATV in a driveway in the town of Hurley. At the home, ECO Palmateer observed an eight-point buck draped over the back of the ATV. A quick check showed that the deer had been properly tagged. ECO Palmateer then learned the hunter had shot the deer from a ground blind, approximately a half mile into the woods. While checking out the ground blind, ECO Palmateer noticed an area in front of the blind that had been freshly torn up. A closer inspection revealed corn kernels on the ground. The officer then located the deer's gut pile, cut open the stomach, and found that it was full of fresh corn. The hunter admitted to putting out bait at the location and was charged with hunting deer over pre-established bait and illegal taking of deer. The deer was confiscated and donated, and the tickets are returnable to Town of Hurley Court.

Large buck on back of ECO vehicle
8-point buck taken illegally over bait

Deer in the Ice - Franklin County
On Dec. 9, ECO Jim Cranker received a call from the Saranac Lake Police Department that a deer fell through the ice on Lake Flower in the village of Saranac Lake. Due to the location of the deer in a populated area near a busy roadway, the officers were concerned that well-intentioned civilians might endanger themselves attempting to rescue the deer. With trained ice rescue members, the Saranac Lake Volunteer Fire Department used their air boat to safely reach the exhausted deer and brought her to DEC's Lake Flower Boat Launch. ECO Cranker and Forest Ranger Lt. Julie Harjung, along with other first responders, treated the doe by wrapping her in blankets with hot water bottles in an attempt to re-warm her body. Despite these efforts, the deer died later that evening. The public is reminded to never attempt to rescue animals that have fallen through the ice, as unpredictable ice and freezing water temperatures pose a serious danger to any would-be rescuer.

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