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For Release: Wednesday, August 7, 2019

DEC Environmental Conservation Police Officer Highlights

ECO Actions for Late July

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:

Crime Scene and Forensic Unit Training - Oneida County
In late July, ECOs completed a course in Advanced Investigations for Hazardous Environments at the State Preparedness Training Center in Oriskany, taught by a team of instructors from the National Center for Biomedical Research and Training at Louisiana State University. This course addresses response in a hazardous environment, with an emphasis on evidence collection and recovery. The course is designed so that participants will develop the required knowledge, skills, and abilities to investigate a chemical, biological, radiological, nuclear, and high-yield explosive, toxic industrial chemical, or hazardous environment crime scene and collect and preserve evidence for further testing. Members of DEC's CSI Sampling Team, which currently consists of 29 Division of Law Enforcement (DLE) members, and the Environmental Forensic Unit (EFU), which consists of 19 DLE members, participated in the training.

Division of Law Enforcement and Environmental Forenic Unit members line up for a photo in their Hazmat suits during training

ECOs sit at a table and learn Crime Scene and Forensic Unit Trainings
DLE members participate in a crime scene and forensic evidence training course

Drug Arrest at Vernooy Kill State Forest - Ulster County
On July 27, ECOs Jason Smith and Lucas Palmateer were on ATV patrol in Wawarsing along a dirt road bordering Vernooy Kill State Forest when they noticed a strong smell of marijuana in the air. Two vehicles were parked alongside the road, and as the ECOs got off their ATVs, two subjects exited the woods and approached the officers. The men stated that they were in town from Pennsylvania and would be playing a show with their band in New Paltz later that evening. They told the officers that they were setting up a campsite in the woods with their bandmates and showed the ECOs the location. The ECOs asked the subjects about the odor of marijuana and one of the subjects produced a marijuana cigarette from his pocket. Unconvinced that all of the drugs had been brought forward, the ECOs asked to search one of the subjects' backpacks. After gaining consent, ECO Palmateer located additional marijuana and multiple LSD tablets. The ECOs arrested the subject, charging him with criminal possession of a controlled substance and unlawful possession of marijuana. He was processed at the Ellenville State Police Barracks and arraigned in the Town of Rochester Court.

Injured Bear Cub Rescued - Franklin County
A motorist called DEC on July 28 to report that he had struck a bear cub on Rt. 3 in the town of Franklin. ECO James Cranker responded and located the injured bear cub in a tree alongside the busy highway. The cub seemed dazed and was favoring an injured front leg. ECO Cranker followed the bear a short distance into the woods, while being alert for the presence of an adult bear in the vicinity. DEC Wildlife Biologist Jim Sickles and a crew of wildlife technicians arrived and successfully delivered a tranquilizer to immobilize the bear. A cursory examination of the cub showed abrasions and a broken front leg, but the injuries appeared non-life threatening. The bear was transported to Cornell University in Ithaca for treatment and rehabilitation and will be released when it is determined to be at full strength.

A bear cub that has been tranquilized is on the forest ground.
The tranquilized bear cub

Entangled Ospreys - Suffolk County
On July 29, ECO Chris Amato responded to a call of an osprey caught in fishing line in a tree on West Meadow Beach in Stony Brook. A person on the bike path led ECO Amato to the bird, which turned out to actually be two ospreys entangled and hanging upside down from a tree branch about 20 feet off the ground. ECO Amato was able to get to the branch and cut it from the tree. With the help of ECO Kyle Bevis and a good Samaritan, the birds were then cut free from the fishing line and taken to an animal emergency hospital. The veterinarian there believed that the birds had been caught for several days, as one bird had gangrene in one foot and the other required a toe removed. Both are expected to survive with proper care. Fishermen and boaters should be aware that the garbage they leave behind can cause harm to wildlife. DEC recommends fishermen discard old fishing line in the trash so birds do not become easily entangled.

Multi-Agency Traffic Enforcement - Schuyler County
On July 31, ECO John Lifrieri organized a multi-purpose checkpoint in the town of Dix on State Rt. 14 in between Watkins Glen and Montour Falls involving several law enforcement agencies and partners, including DEC's Division of Air Resources, DEC's Spills Unit, New York State Police, New York State Park Police, the Schuyler County Sheriff's Office, New York State Department of Transportation (NYSDOT), and the Watkins Glen Police Department. ECOs Erik Dalecki, Todd Smith, Paul Blanton, and Jarrod Lomozik also participated. DEC and NYSDOT focused on commercial vehicle enforcement while other agencies focused on vehicle traffic traveling into the area for the NASCAR event at Watkins Glen. Over 80 violations, including three misdemeanors, were issued, with charges ranging from tampering with emissions control devices, to emissions failures, seat belt violations, unlicensed and suspended operators, speeding, and drug enforcement. All cases will either be heard in Dix Town Court or Watkins Glen Village Court.

Illegal Shellfish - Queens County
On July 31, ECO Matthew Thibodeau received a complaint that a group in Queens were using seine nets to illegally catch and keep protected marine species on the shore of Jamaica Bay. ECO Thibodeau and ECO Jeffery Johnston quickly located the individuals, who had buckets full of thousands of Atlantic Silverside (also called spearing), a populous fish species that live near the water's edge and are used as baitfish for larger game fish. The small net the men were using was legal, but an undersized fluke and more than 250 mussels taken from the uncertified waters of the bay were mixed into the buckets of legal spearing. Harvesting shellfish in Jamaica Bay (uncertified waters) is illegal, and a total of four summonses were issued to the group for the various violations. The ECOs also made sure to educate the netters on the recreational fishing limits and shellfish regulations for the marine district to avoid future problems.

Buckets and coolers filled with thousands of small fish
The legal spearing and the illegal mussels

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