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For Release: Wednesday, June 26, 2019

DEC Environmental Conservation Police Officer Highlights

ECO Actions for Mid-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:

Raccoons Aren't Pets - Suffolk County
On June 13, ECOs Nicholas Nicholas and Kyle Bevis received a report that a family in Bay Shore was keeping two raccoons as pets. The ECOs arrived at the home and found two juvenile raccoons in the basement. After interviewing one of the family members, the ECOs learned that the two raccoons, named Rack and Uni, were being fed milk from a bottle and had been trained to use a litter box. Because it is illegal to possess wildlife as a pet in New York State, the racoons were seized and brought to a local wildlife rehabilitator to be released back into the wild. In addition, two tickets were issued for unlawful possession of wildlife and possession of wildlife as a pet.

Country Bear in Town - Schenectady County
On June 15, DEC Dispatch received a call from the Rotterdam Police Department requesting assistance with a bear in a tree in a residential neighborhood. The bear had been frequenting the area for the past week, most likely seeking out food sources. ECOs Chris Valenty and Brian Canzeri arrived and, with the help of Rotterdam PD, cleared the area of bystanders. Lt. Jason DeAngelis coordinated efforts with DEC Wildlife staff, Rotterdam PD, and the Rotterdam Fire Department, which responded with a ladder truck. DEC biologist Larry Bifaro arrived on scene and the bear was tranquilized without incident. The bear is a female weighing approximately 170 pounds and estimated to be 25 years old. After an examination, biologists released the healthy bear in a rural area.

Black bear that has been sedated laying on the ground on a net
Sedated Rotterdam bear

"Remove the Garbage" Doesn't Mean Burn the Garbage - Cayuga County
On June 15, ECO Scott Sincebaugh responded to a call from the Cayuga County Health Department reporting an unlawful open burn of solid waste in the town of Moravia. On June 12, representatives from the County Health Department, in response to unsanitary conditions, had instructed the property owner to remove the waste from his property and dispose of it lawfully. Rather than haul the waste to a permitted disposal facility, the owner burned the garbage. ECO Sincebaugh issued a ticket to the subject for unlawful open burning. If found guilty of the charge, the subject faces a minimum fine of $500 and/or up to one year in jail.

A pile of garbage on top of a pile of brush A large, charred area of grass and brush that has been burned
Garbage before and after being burned

Cops and Bobbers - Orange County
The Wallkill Police Department, Town of Wallkill PBA, City of Middletown Police Department, DEC ECOs and Forest Rangers, and a host of volunteers held the first-time fishing event "Cops and Bobbers" for families on June 15. ECOs Ricky Wood, with K-9 Deming, and Melissa Burgess gave a demonstration highlighting the K-9's specialized training in scent detection and the unique job duties of an ECO K-9. Afterward, children and their families hit the water with fishing poles and began reeling in the fish. Successful events like Cops and Bobbers bring families and law enforcement together to build stronger ties to the communities these officers serve.

Two ECOs and their K-9 officer speaking to a large group of people in the woods
ECO Wood, with K-9 Deming, and ECO Burgess describe
DLE's role in protecting resources and the environment

Missing Parking Permit Leads to Fishing Ticket - Suffolk County
On June 16, ECO Emma Carpenter was patrolling Caumsett State Park in Lloyd Harbor when she observed a truck without a permit parked in the lot. No one was in sight on the beach below the parking lot, so ECO Carpenter hiked about a mile down the beach before she located a group of people fishing. She quickly determined that the truck belonged to the group. While explaining to the owner of the truck that he cannot park in this lot without a permit, she also looked at the fish in their bucket. Underneath legal porgies she found a blackfish, also known as tautog. The truck owner admitted to catching the fish, for which the season was closed. The subject was issued tickets for parking without a permit and possessing tautog out of season.

Illegal Father's Day Fishing - Oneida County
On Father's Day, June 16, at 3 a.m., ECO Jeff Hull received a complaint of a subject keeping over the limit of walleye at the Barge Canal in Sylvan Beach. ECO Hull responded and found a male fitting the description of the fisherman on the south side of the canal. After observing the fisherman for a little while and not seeing him catch anything, ECO Hull approached. In a bucket were three walleye, two legal and one undersized. The fishermen claimed these were the only fish he had caught. However, ECO Hull found a bag hidden nearby in the bushes and containing 13 more walleye, including three additional undersized fish. The subject was issued summonses for possession of 13 walleye over the legal limit and possession of four undersized walleye.

Suds, Strike Two - Suffolk County
On June 18, ECO Kaitlin Grady received a complaint about a laundromat discharging waste into a storm drain in Centereach. The ECO arrived to find sudsy water overflowing from a closed leaching pool cap and running downhill into a storm drain in the parking lot. On June 21, ECO Grady issued the business owner a ticket for depositing a noxious, offensive substance into a sewer. Less than a year ago, ECO Chris Amato ticketed the laundromat for the same offense. DEC's Division of Water will work with the business to ensure compliance with water quality regulations and take enforcement action if additional violations are found.

Concrete lot behind a building with a large puddle of soapy water gathering near a storm drain
Sudsy water overflowing into storm drain

Saving a Working Raptor - Queens County
On June 18, ECO Jeffrey Johnston received a call from a U.S. Park Ranger regarding an injured raptor observed struggling to stay afloat near Riis Landing in Jamaica Bay. Prior to the ECO's arrival, a kayaker fishing in the area scooped up the raptor and brought it to shore, where ECO Johnston was able to secure and transport it to a local wildlife rehabilitator. After a quick examination, it was determined that the raptor was a hybrid falcon cross between a Gyrfalcon and a Saker Falcon. Based on its tag numbers, GPS unit, and bells attached to its feet, the falcon belonged to a local falconry business. Hybrid falcons like this are used around the perimeter of JFK International Airport as an environmentally friendly approach to pest control. The raptors assist in reducing the number of seagulls, which decreases the percentage of bird strikes to aircraft and engines during takeoff and landing at JFK. The malnourished and dehydrated hybrid falcon is expected to make a full recovery and will be reunited with its owner in a few days.

ECO standing with a falcon on his gloved hand
ECO Johnston with malnourished hybrid falcon

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