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For Release: Wednesday, March 3, 2021

DEC Environmental Conservation Police Officer Highlights

Recent ECO Actions

New York State Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) Police Officers (ECOs) and Investigators enforce the 71 Chapters of NY Environmental Conservation Law (ECL), protecting fish and wildlife and preserving environmental quality across New York. In 2020, the 298 ECOs and Investigators across the state responded to 29,673 calls and worked on cases that resulted in 11,952 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-one marks New York's Conservation Police Officers' 141st anniversary. In 1880, the first eight Game Protectors proudly began serving to protect the natural resources and people of New York State.

"DEC's Environmental Conservation Police Officers are working hard in communities across New York to protect natural resources by upholding our state's stringent laws and regulations and protecting public safety," Commissioner Basil Seggos said. "Our ECOs are expertly trained to perform their duties in every setting-from cities to wilderness-and continue to adapt to meet new and emerging challenges as they build on their longstanding commitment to protect New York's environment."

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).

Something Fishy - Essex County
On Feb. 18, ECO LaPoint received a report of ice fishermen on Schroon Lake, Essex County, who were catching lake trout shorter than the legal length of 18 inches. ECO LaPoint contacted Acting Lieutenant Nicols, who located the suspects' vehicle with information provided by the complainant. From the shore, the two Officers observed the ice anglers until the fishermen returned to their vehicle. When asked to see the fish caught, one angler pulled out the legally caught fish while trying to hide the undersized fish. ECOs discovered nine undersized lake trout, the largest measuring 17 inches. One of the men was also fishing without a license. ECO LaPoint issued both subjects tickets for undersized and over-the-limit lake trout and one for fishing without a license. After advising the men of the limit of two lake trout per angler and the legal minimum length of 18 inches, the ECOs allowed the licensed fisherman to keep his legal-length catch and the undersized trout were donated to DEC Bureau of Wildlife staff to use as bait for a fisher and pine marten live trapping study.

Illegally caught fish lined up on snowy ground
Undersized lake trout caught on Schroon Lake, Essex County

Right Place, Right Time - Jefferson County
On Feb. 20, while conducting routine ice fishing checks on Chaumont Bay, ECO Jackson encountered a group of approximately six subjects fishing and preparing lunch. As ECO Jackson checked fishing licenses, one of the anglers advised that another fisher was choking. This subject was red in the face, clutching his neck, and unable to speak. ECO Jackson immediately performed the Heimlich maneuver of the subject. Fortunately, on the third thrust, a partially chewed piece of venison flew out of the man's mouth and he was immediately able to breathe and speak. The subject refused further medical attention but thanked ECO Jackson for the life-saving measure.

Snowmobile Accident Assist - Jefferson County
On Feb. 21, while patrolling for snowmobile violations, ECO Nicholas heard Jefferson County dispatch report a snowmobile accident. The ECO was the first responder to arrive on scene. The snowmobile operator had failed to negotiate a turn in the trail, struck a tree, and was ejected from the sled. Despite their injuries, the operator was alive and alert. ECO Nicholas helped the Lorraine Volunteer Fire Department load the injured subject onto their UTV for transport to a waiting ambulance. The ambulance met with a helicopter that then transported the injured subject to Upstate University Hospital in Syracuse. New York State Park Police, State Police, ECOs, and Forest Rangers remind all snowmobile riders to make safety their priority in an effort to reduce the number of personal injury and fatal accidents. For more information, visit NYS Parks website.

patient being loaded onto helicopter that has landed in a large paved area
Snowmobile accident patient's helicopter transport

First responder and accident victim at site of snowmobile crash, sitting in the snow next to debris
First responders with victim at accident scene

Sniffing Out Trouble - Oswego County
DEC's Division of Law Enforcement recently completed a three-month K9 Basic Training School in Pulaski with three newly acquired young German Shepherd dogs. The K9 teams learned to track humans through all terrain and environmental conditions. The teams then advanced to burnt gunpowder detection training to help find spent casing/shot shell components and firearms in the field. From there, the K9 teams moved on to wildlife detection where the dogs were trained to detect venison and bear meat. They were put through numerous real-life scenarios such as wildlife being hidden by poachers or taken illegally. Over the next year, the three K9 teams will be certified in identifying at least one additional wildlife species. The dogs' keen sense of smell assists in police investigations, including illegal hunting crimes and the taking of wildlife across New York State. The K9s also trained in basic obedience, handler protection, and criminal apprehension.

ECO poses for photo with K9 partner
ECO Dussault and K9 Vinny, named after retired DEC Captain William Vincent Powell

Sometimes all it Takes is a Little Snow - St. Lawrence County
On Feb. 28, a 15-year-old girl in the town of Lisbon was home alone when she noticed two trucks pull into her driveway. Unknown men exited the truck wearing camouflage and knocked on the door. At the same time, the teen heard sounds of dogs fighting in her backyard. She was frightened by the knock and the presumed dog fight and did not answer the door. The girl saw the men proceed into the backyard, heard a gunshot, and watched as they left quickly. The teenager called her parents, who contacted ECO Canary for assistance. ECO Canary's investigation determined the hunting dogs entered the yard from the rear farm field while chasing, and eventually cornering, a coyote. Because they were using GPS collars, the subjects were able to tell when their dogs had stopped moving. The poachers arrived to get their dogs and took advantage of an easy, but illegal, harvest of the coyote. The Officer did not identify the poacher, but thanks to some freshly fallen snow, tracks left behind provided helpful evidence. ECO Canary visited the homes of five known coyote hunters in the area until finally the Officer was able to match the tread pattern left at the scene. The poacher admitted to shooting the coyote and was issued tickets for trespass and shooting within 500 feet of a dwelling.

photo of back tire and tracks of truck, with a footprint in the snow
Tire tracks lead ECO to coyote poacher

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