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For Release: Wednesday, August 5, 2020

DEC Environmental Conservation Police Officer Highlights

Recent ECO Highlights

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-and-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).

Distressed Humpback Whale Freed - Marine District, NY Harbor
On July 27, the U.S. Coast Guard (USCG) notified DEC's Division of Law Enforcement and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) Fisheries of a distressed humpback whale in Ambrose Channel, one of the busiest waterways in New York Harbor. The distressed whale was reportedly anchored to the sea floor with its tail entangled by an unknown material, leaving it unable to breathe freely and at severe risk of being struck by ships entering and leaving the harbor. DEC Division of Law Enforcement's Marine Unit and the Division of Marine Resources were crucial members of the rescue team that assisted the Atlantic Marine Conservation Society and Center for Coastal Studies free the distressed humpback whale from what turned out to be a commercial fishing trawl net. The rescue operation took four days as DEC and partners that also included Monmouth University and Turtles Fly Too supported the disentanglement team flown in from Massachusetts. A U.S. Corp of Engineers vessel used heavy equipment to secure and haul some of the material the disentanglement team cut away to relieve pressure on the whale's tail. Finally, on Thursday, July 30, the whale was freed with minimal injury and swam away to continue its journey. Additional photos and videos available on DEC's Instagram, Facebook and Twitter accounts.

Two ECOs holding the line on a bouy on the back of a boat in the ocean ECOs assissting other crew members on a boat in the ocean
ECOs assist in the rescue of a humpback whale by deploying buoys to help keep it afloat. Work Conducted under Permit No. 18786-04 issued to the NOAA Fisheries Marine Mammal Health and Stranding Response Team

Injured Red-tailed Hawk Rescued - Richmond County
On July 29, ECOs Milliron and Anderson received a call about an injured hawk in Staten Island. Upon arrival, the ECOs were greeted at a local cemetery by the security guards who had found the bird. The ECOs determined the bird was a red-tailed hawk, one of North America's most common hawks that has a distinct, raspy scream expected from a raptor. The security guards gave the ECOs a small dog bed to hold the hawk comfortably during their hour-long drive to the nearest open wildlife rehabilitator. The Wild Bird Fund in New York County received the distressed hawk and, after a quick initial look, believed it to be experiencing some neurological damage. The Wild Bird Fund took in the hawk for further testing and rehabilitation.

ECO handing over a hawk wrapped up in a small dog bed to a wildlife rehabilitator
ECO Anderson handing off the red-tailed hawk to
a rehabilitator at the Wild Bird Fund in Manhattan

Trapped Timber Rattlesnake Surprises Vacationers - Warren County
On August 2, ECO LaPoint responded to a residence in the town of Hague, Warren County, for a report of a trapped timber rattlesnake at residence where a family was vacationing. Upon arriving at the home, ECO LaPoint located the snake outside trapped under a tote. Using snake tongs issued by DEC, along with a cloth bag and bucket lid, he safely secured the rattlesnake in the bucket and removed it from the premises. ECO LaPoint transported the rattlesnake to DEC's Green Island maintenance facility where it was temporarily held until it could be released to a suitable location. Timber rattlesnakes are a threatened species in New York. For more information visit DEC's website.

ECO holding a large rattle snake with a grabber
ECO LaPoint with a timber rattlesnake in Warren County

Statewide COVID‐19 Response
Over the last several months, ECOs have been on the front lines of the COVID-19 response and continue to support the mission assisting federal, state, and local agencies. During the State's response to the virus, Officers have filled important roles in the Incident Command System (ICS) at State COVID-19 testing sites. Across the state, ECOs also continue their core functions and have seen an increased trend of recreational participation in hunting, fishing, and boating. The public is encouraged to get outside responsibly and practice social distancing while recreating. To report environmental emergencies, violations of law, or to speak to an Environmental Conservation Officer call 1-844-DEC-ECOS.

ECO sitting at a desk going over some paperwork at a COVID-19 testing site
ECO Shea, Deputy Planning Section Chief, reviewing
documents for the Aqueduct COVID-19 testing site in Queens

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