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For Release: Thursday, May 28, 2020

DEC Environmental Conservation Police Officer Highlights

Recent ECO Actions

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 2019, the 288 ECOs across the state responded to 25,704 calls and worked on cases that resulted in 16,855 tickets or arrests for crimes ranging from deer poaching to solid waste dumping, illegal mining, the black market pet trade, and excessive emissions violations.

Two-thousand-twenty marks 50 years for DEC and 140 Years for New York's Conservation Police Officers. In 1880, the first eight Game Protectors proudly began serving to protect the natural resources and people of New York State.

"From Montauk Point and 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. "Our ECOs have worked arduous hours, both deep in our remote wildernesses and in the tight confines of our urban landscapes, for far longer than the 50 years since DEC was created. These officers are critical to achieving DEC's mission to protect and enhance our environment and I am confident they will continue this important mission for the next 50 years and beyond."

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).

Fresh Tracks Lead to Illegal Deer - Herkimer County

Earlier this year, two hunters settled cases in the Town of German Flatts Court for the illegal taking of deer. On Dec. 8, 2019, ECO Katie Jakaub received complaints of deer hunters trespassing on posted property in the town of German Flatts. After locating the suspect's parked pickup truck, ECO Jakaub followed two sets of footprints in the fresh snow. After about ¾ of a mile, she came upon two men dragging a freshly shot spike buck out of a ravine. One of the men admitted shooting the buck and both admitted to hunting the property for years despite knowing it was posted. ECO Jakaub instructed the suspects to finish dragging out the buck while she carried their firearms and met them back at the road. The shooter was charged with illegal taking of a whitetail deer and both men were charged with trespassing in accordance with Environmental Conservation Law. The two hunters paid fines totaling $900.

Hunter dragging deceased deer through the snow in the woods
Shooter dragging illegally taken deer

Too Many Trout - Cattaraugus County

On April 12, 2020, ECOs Kevin Budniewski and Dustin Oliver assisted ECOs J.M. Powers and Nate Mead with a plain-clothes detail on Five Mile Creek in the town of Franklinville. On that same day DEC Fisheries staff stocked the creek in various locations. The undercover officers witnessed four separate individuals who each kept five trout that measured well over 12 inches. DEC regulations permit the taking of five trout per day, but only two can be over 12 inches. ECOs issued tickets to the four men for taking in excess of the daily limit. The anglers are scheduled to respond to the Franklinville Town Court.

What Not to Do in the North Woods - Kittery, Maine

On May 7, ECO Jerry Kinney began investigating actions in a video provided to Lt. Nathan VerHague showing an individual sitting in the driver's seat of a truck shooting a turkey from the vehicle with a shotgun. ECOs received the complaint after the video was accidentally sent to the complainant from a Maryville phone number. ECO Kinney watched the video and picked up several clues including the fact that the shot came from a pickup truck registered in New York and that the illegal hunting and harvest of the bird took place close to an interstate. The passenger taking the video also called the poacher by his first name during a conversation. ECO Kinney contacted the poacher, asked him several questions, and discovered that the illegal kill happened in Kittery, Maine. ECO Kinney contacted Maine Warden Eric Blanchard and law enforcement in Maine charged the hunter for hunting without a license and shooting from a motor vehicle. He faces nearly $800 in fines if convicted.

Rehabilitated Peregrine Falcon Released into the Wild

On May 10, a rehabilitated peregrine falcon found last year in Delaware County was released into the wild. On Oct. 20, 2019, a resident contacted ECO Vern Bauer reporting an emaciate and sick falcon. ECO Bauer brought the three-year-old male falcon to Missy Runyon of Friends of the Feathered and Furry Wildlife Center in Greene County. Medical staff discovered a pellet in the left shoulder and a dislocated shoulder with a ruptured air sac on its right. At the time, there was uncertainty if the falcon would ever fly again, let alone survive. Missy Runyun spent seven months rehabilitating the falcon and was present for the release.

photo of falcon with bandage around wing in an animal crate
Injured falcon recovering at rehabilitation facility

ECO releasing falcon off of hand in woods
Rehabilitated falcon released by ECO Bauer

Squirrels in a Sticky Situation - Dutchess County

On May 14, ECO Kevin Wamsley received a call about a group of squirrels in distress in the hamlet of Verbank. The caller stated the squirrels appeared to have their tails tied together and could not move freely. ECO Wamsley responded to the location and discovered that the juvenile squirrel tails were stuck together with a mass of nest debris and a tar-like substance later determined to be pine pitch. The squirrels were struggling to free themselves from their siblings. ECO Wamsley captured the squirrels and began the meticulous task of freeing their tails. After some time and quite a bit of effort, ECO Wamsley was able to pull and cut away the nesting materials and free the squirrels one by one. All four squirrels were released on site.

ECO holding nest and squirrels four squirrels tangled up by their tails
ECO Wamsley frees tangled squirrels

Baby Hawk Falls from Nest - Oneida County

On May 15, a concerned resident in the town of Floyd contacted ECOs about a baby hawk on her property. ECO Robert Howe responded to the call and found a young hawk on the ground that appeared to have fallen from its nest in a nearby tree. A thunderstorm with high winds had just passed through the area and was the likely cause. Officer Howe captured the bird and brought it to a licensed wildlife rehabilitator. The young hawk will be cared for until it can be released back into the wild.

photo of ECO's hand holding baby hawk
Baby hawk being taken to wildlife rehabilitator

Fawns Rescued after Accident - Cattaraugus County

On May 16, ECO JM Powers received a phone call from New York State Police (NYSP) about a doe struck by a car and killed on Route 16 in the town of Franklinville. The doe had two fawns that were still alive and onsite. ECO Powers responded and met with a Trooper near the accident scene. ECO Powers secured the young fawns and immediately transported the pair to a nearby rehabilitation facility.

ECO holding a small fawn in his arms
ECO Powers with young fawn

Abandoned Otter Kit - Jefferson County

On May 17, a seasonal homeowner on Grenadier Island in the town of Cape Vincent contacted ECO Evan McFee reporting an abandoned river otter kit. The homeowner said the young otter was found the day before in a grassy area near his home and had been there for more than 24 hours. The homeowner kept a close watch on the otter and did not see other otters in the area. Due to the length of time the young otter had been left alone without food or water, ECO McFee decided to transport the otter to a wildlife rehabilitator. Under McFee's direction, the homeowner used a plastic tote to transport the young otter and met the ECO at a marina in Cape Vincent. ECO McFee then brought the otter to a local wildlife rehabilitator. The otter kit was in good health and being evaluated to determine the next steps of rehabilitation.

baby otter laying in tall grass
River otter kit found in grass, photo courtesy of homeowner

ECO Assists with Injured Red-Tailed Hawk - Niagara County

On May 19, ECO George Scheer responded to a citizen's call reporting an injured hawk on their property in the town of Somerset. Utilizing his Wildlife Response Training, ECO Scheer identified the species as a Red-Tailed Hawk. The hawk appeared to have sustained an injury to its right wing. ECO Scheer and a local Licensed Wildlife Rehabilitator secured the injured hawk so it could be safely transported to a veterinarian for proper care.

ECO holding red-tailed hawk in his arms
ECO Scheer with injured Red-Tailed Hawk

Injured Hawks Rehabilitated and Released - Ulster County

On May 22, two Red-Tailed Hawks, recently rehabilitated, were released back into the wild in town of Olive. One hawk had lead poisoning and the other sustained a fractured ulna that was repaired surgically. Both hawks were rehabilitated by Missy Runyun of Friends of the Feathered and Furry Wildlife Center. Over the Memorial Day Holiday Weekend, ECOs released the hawk that was poisoned on the same property where it was found back in March. The other was released at Grant Avery Memorial Park in Olive. Video of the release is available on DEC's YouTube page.

ECO stands in fenced-in area with injured hawk in his hands
ECO Smith with injured hawk

ECO releasing rehabilitated hawk from a large storage container
Rehabilitated hawks released back into the wild

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