Department of Environmental Conservation

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For Release: Thursday, June 20, 2019

DEC Environmental Conservation Police Officer Highlights

ECO Actions for Early June

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 2018, the 288 ECOs across the state responded to 21,668 calls and worked on cases that resulted in 20,665 tickets or arrests for crimes ranging from deer poaching to solid waste dumping, 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:

Broken Dock, Stranded Fisherman - Suffolk County
On June 2, ECO Rob McCabe was checking catches at the Shinnecock Inlet in Southampton when he heard a loud splash behind him. He spun around to see that a fisherman he had just checked was gone along with the section of dock where he was standing. ECO McCabe grabbed his throw rope and a life jacket and sprinted to the location, where he found the man clinging to a piling in the water. ECO McCabe threw the rope to the fisherman. Together, the ECO and a nearby good Samaritan were able to lift the man out of the water and onto a sturdy dock. The man was treated for minor lacerations to his arms and legs but suffered no serious injuries.

Fawn Duty - Putnam and Chenango Counties
On June 6, ECO Craig Tompkins received a call about a fawn whose mother had been hit and killed by a car in the town of Carmel. ECO Tompkins and ECO Kevin Wamsley captured the fawn and delivered it to a local wildlife rehabilitator. The young buck will be raised and released when it is old enough to survive and fend for itself in the wild.

On June 7, ECO Brett Armstrong received an anonymous complaint in the town of Otselic about the illegal possession of a white-tailed deer fawn. Using information on social media, ECO Armstrong confirmed the claim and visited the residence in question. The people at the home initially denied having the young deer, but changed their story when confronted with photos posted online. The owner had found the fawn and brought it home to his family. The fawn was seized and transported to a wildlife rehabilitator for care and eventual release. Charges are pending for possessing the deer and could result in a fine of up to $250 and the possibility of up to 15 days in jail.

It is illegal to possess wildlife. DEC would like to remind the public to let wildlife remain wild and observe it from a distance. If you encounter a young wild animal that is injured or orphaned, call an ECO, a wildlife rehabilitator, or a Regional DEC Wildlife Office.

ECO cradling a fawn in a barn-type building ECO holding a fawn in his arms in someone's home
ECO Wamsley with orphaned Putnam County fawn (L) and ECO Armstrong with illegally kept fawn (R)

Providing Public Safety at "Taste of Country" - Greene County
On June 7 and 8, ECOs Anthony Glorioso, Jared Woodin, Kurt Bush, Vern Bauer, Dustin Osborne, and Lt. Mike Terrell participated in a security detail at the Taste of Country Music Festival at the request of Greene County Sheriff Gregg Sealy. ECOs worked side-by-side with a host of different law enforcement agencies to ensure public safety at the annual event held at Hunter Mountain Ski Resort. ECOs patrolled on ATVs and UTVs and assisted with various issues, including two 911 calls reporting black bears entering tents and consuming food. The ECOs were able to quickly move the bears along without incident.

Three ATV's lined up in a field for a music festival, tents visible in the background
ECOs patrol Taste of Country Music Festival

ECO Graduates from FBI Academy - Quantico, Virginia
On June 7, Major George Steele, a 23-year veteran of the DEC's Division of Law Enforcement, was one of 256 law enforcement officers from 49 states who graduated from the FBI National Academy Program at Quantico, Virginia. Also included in the class were officers from 35 countries, five military organizations, and seven federal organizations. Internationally known for its 10-week advanced course in law enforcement communication, leadership, and training, the FBI academy selects candidates from the top one percent of police officers within the nation's 18,000 police agencies. On average, these officers have 21 years of law enforcement experience. A total of 52,026 graduates now represent the alumni of the FBI National Academy since it began in 1935. Steele, 49, is a native of Oswego County and graduated Sandy Creek Central School in 1987, and Community College of the Finger Lakes in 1990. His first job with DEC was as a Fish and Wildlife technician in Region 8. Steele became an ECO in 1996, and served across the state in a number of roles as both a field officer and command staff. Steele currently serves as the Division's head of investigations and external affairs. George and his wife of 25 years, Jennie, live in Oswego County.

Major Steele posing for an offical picture with the FBI National Academy flag as a backdrop
Major George Steele, Head of DLE's Investigations and External Affairs

I'll Meet You in the Parking Lot ... With Illegal Fluke - Suffolk County
On June 8, ECO Chris DeRose responded to a complaint about a fisherman keeping undersized fluke on the main pier at Captree State Park. ECO DeRose watched the fisherman before engaging him in conversation. The man claimed to have not had any luck. ECO DeRose returned to the parking lot and waited for the fisherman to pack up his equipment and leave. With the rear hatch of the fisherman's SUV open, ECO DeRose approached and again engaged the fisherman, asking about bags of empty cans in the vehicle. He found that one bag was heavier than the rest and held three undersized fluke - the largest only 13 inches long, significantly shorter than the minimum length of 19 inches. The three fish were seized, and the fisherman was issued a summons for possession of undersize fluke. The summons is returnable to Suffolk County First District Court in July.

Three small fluke lined up for a photo
Three undersized fluke

4th Annual Boat Rides for Veterans - Dutchess County
On June 8, ECOs Jon Walraven and Charles Eyler participated in the 4th Annual "Boat Rides for Veterans" event held by the White's Marina Boaters Association and the Dutchess County Office of Veterans Services. The day started with a flag raising ceremony and the national anthem at White's Marina in New Hamburg. Veterans from all branches of service then set out on boating trips down the Hudson River to West Point Military Academy. Veterans themselves, ECO Walraven (Marines) and ECO Eyler (U.S. Army) escorted the 15-boat flotilla along with the Dutchess County Sheriff's Office. After the boats returned, the veterans and their families were treated to food and refreshments.

ECOs on a law enforcement boat on the Hudson River with West Point Academy in the background
ECOs Walraven and Eyler in front of West Point

Veterans Park 4-H Fishing Clinic - Putnam County
On June 8, ECOs Craig Tompkins and Kevin Wamsley joined young anglers at the Putnam County 4-H Fishing Clinic at the Putnam County Veterans Park in the town of Kent. ECOs Tompkins and Wamsley, along with volunteers from a local sportsmen's club, helped the young anglers bait hooks and instructed the children on casting, which many were trying for the first time. After a practice session, the kids and their parents made their way to the lake, where they enjoyed themselves and had good fishing success.

Two ECOs pose for a picture with a young girl holding a fish Two ECOs post with two young kids holding up the fish they caught
ECOs Tompkins and Wamsley with young anglers at Putnam County 4-H Fishing Clinic

Peregrine Falcon Rescue and Release - Broome County
On June 9, ECO Eric Templeton responded to reports of a juvenile Peregrine Falcon on the sidewalk at the corner of Court and Exchange streets in the city of Binghamton. ECO Templeton captured the apparently distressed bird and brought it to off-duty Lt. Ric Warner, an experienced falconer, for banding. After a brief inspection, Lt. Warner determined the bird should be transported to the Janet Swanson Wildlife Center at Cornell University for a health assessment prior to release. Lt. Warner spoke with veterinarian Dr. Sara Childs the following day, and on June 11, the bird had recovered. Lt. Warner, accompanied by ECO Ozzie Eisenberg, conducted the banding with the assistance of Cornell personnel at the Wildlife Center. The healthy Peregrine was then taken back to Binghamton and released from the rooftop of the Security Mutual Building, where local peregrines raise their young each year.

ECO kneeling on ground next to vehicle holding a falcon ECO on a rooftop getting ready to release a falcon
ECO Templeton with the falcon (L) and Lt. Warner preparing for its release (R)

Southern Catskills Girl Scouts Angling Event - Orange County
On June 9, ECOs Melissa Burgess and Jeannette Bastedo attended the Southern Catskill Angler & Girl Scout Troop event with an eager group of Girl Scouts, family, and friends who came out to enjoy a day of fishing and learning. ECOs Burgess and Bastedo explained the role ECOs play in protecting fish and wildlife resources and discussed the importance of conservation. The scouts learned how to tie knots and cast before they began fishing. This was the second year the event was hosted at Schirrman's Pond, a private residence generously opened to the girls and their families for the day. Well over 120 people attended and ECOs would like to thank the combined efforts of the Southern Catskill Anglers, Girl Scouts, Schirrman family, and the volunteers who helped make it a special day for the girls.

Two ECOs standing at their vehicle near a pond with Girl Scouts gathered around listending to the ECOs speak
ECOs Burgess and Bastedo with Girl Scouts and parents

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