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For Release: Wednesday, March 17, 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).

First Call, High Stakes - Oneida County
Early into his shift on March 6, ECO Tabor began a snowmobile patrol when Oneida County 911 reported a possible overdose victim. The closest Officer in the area, ECO Tabor responded to the location to find a non-responsive subject in the back seat of a vehicle. The patient's daughter and son-in-law were attempting CPR when ECO Tabor took over chest compressions while the son-in-law provided rescue breaths. The patient exhibited bouts of gasping and non-responsiveness until Woodgate Fire Department paramedics arrived on scene. Paramedics administered Narcan and supplemental oxygen and the patient responded to the treatment. ECO Tabor helped move the patient to an ambulance for further treatment.

Second Call, Low Water - Oneida County
Following his response to the medical emergency on March 6, ECO Tabor was dispatched to the Black River where Forestport residents noticed the flowing waters of the river had stopped and pools of water appeared to be drying up. ECO Tabor interviewed several individuals and determined the Forestport Reservoir's hydroelectric dam had a broken sensor, which caused the water control system to malfunction and divert much of the reservoir water into the adjacent Black River Canal. Fortunately, the water reentered the river approximately one-quarter mile downstream without causing any significant issues. A contractor manually fixed the gates to restore water flow to the Black River and a more extensive fix under the oversight of DEC's Dam Safety Section and the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) is underway.

snowy river flowing, but very low water levels
DEC investigated a broken sensor that prevented water from flowing to the Black River

snowy river with very low water levels, some spots almost dry
Low water levels at the Black River after sensor failure

Snowmobile Collision Results in Arrest - Franklin County
On March 8, a snowmobile operator was charged after an accident earlier this year that left him and his passenger injured. On Jan. 6, ECO Favreau received a phone call in the early morning hours from New York State Police requesting assistance investigating a personal injury snowmobile accident in the village of Tupper Lake. The 20-year-old snowmobile operator was traveling illegally on Murray Street when the snowmobile left the roadway and struck a shed on private property. The operator and his passenger were transported to the Adirondack Medical Center in Saranac Lake for treatment. ECO Favreau investigated the incident and determined the operator was intoxicated at the time of the accident. The subject was charged with operating a snowmobile at an imprudent speed, reckless operation of a snowmobile, operating a snowmobile at excess speed within 100 feet of a dwelling between the hours of 12 - 6 a.m., operating a snowmobile with a B.A.C. of .08 or higher, and operating a snowmobile while intoxicated. The subject will face these charges in the Village of Tupper Lake Court. For more information on snowmobile safety visit DEC's website.

DNA Head Case - Ulster County
On March 10, ECOs wrapped up an extensive poaching investigation with a guilty plea in the Town of Rochester court. On Nov. 19, 2019, DEC Central Dispatch received a trespass complaint about a ground hunting blind on private property. ECO Johnson and Lt. Buckley responded to the property, found the hunting blind with bait around it, and an arrow stuck in the ground. The arrow had DNA material on it, which the ECOs collected for evidence. A few days later, ECOs Johnson and Palmateer returned to the blind and found an individual hunting with the aid of bait. The Officers issued a summons to the hunter, who provided information about the owner of the blind. During the investigation, the Officers learned the owner might have shot a deer from the blind earlier in the season. The ECOs interviewed the owner of the blind at his residence, where he admitted to placing the bait and killing a buck during archery season. The head of the buck in question had the suspect's regular season deer tag, but the date of kill written on it was the last day of archery season. The Officers seized the deer head as evidence to compare to the DNA samples collected at the bait site. DEC's Wildlife Health Unit performed a full necropsy on the deer head and determined the deer was killed by multiple small caliber bullet wounds to the neck, not an arrow, indicating the deer was killed with a firearm during archery season. Officers and investigators executed a search warrant of the suspect's residence and charged him with illegally taking protected wildlife, taking deer with an illegal implement, unlawful possession of protected wildlife, failing to tag deer as required, hunting deer with the aid of bait, and failing to report deer harvest within seven days. The defendant accepted a plea agreement for one of the misdemeanors and multiple guilty pleas for the violation-level charges. He was ordered to pay more than $1,200 in fines and surcharges.

x-ray photo of deer skull confiscated deer head in back of truck
Seized deer head and X-ray showing bullet fragments

Striper Swipers - Westchester County
On March 11, ECOs Tompkins, Thibodeau, and Franz conducted a plainclothes fishing detail focused on anglers taking out-of-season striped bass. The Officers patrolled George's Island Park in the town of Cortlandt and Croton Landing Park in the village of Croton-on-Hudson. During the detail, the ECOs observed several anglers taking and keeping out-of-season fish. The ECOs issued 10 citations for violations including possessing out-of-season fish and fishing without a valid license. The Officers seized 42 striped bass from violators and recovered 38 striped bass from large black garbage bags concealed in a nearby wooded area. Several fish were released back into the Hudson River to survive another day and the rest of the fish were donated to a local Wolf Conservation Center.

Three ECOs stand behind a slew of fish lined up on the pavement
ECOs Tompkins, Thibodeau, and Franz with 80 out-of-season striped bass

Catch Undersized Fish, Pay Sizeable Fine - Westchester County
An angler busted for taking undersized striped bass last year paid a hefty fine in the Village of Croton-on-Hudson Court. On Sept. 1, 2020, ECOs Tompkins and Crisafulli were patrolling the Hudson River when they noticed several groups fishing. The officers began checking each group for licenses and any fish caught. ECO Tompkins checked the bucket that contained many fish, including white perch. A closer look found 17 undersized striped bass in the bucket. New York State regulations restrict anglers in the Hudson River to one fish per person with a size limit of 18 to 28 inches. One of the anglers in the group took the blame for all the illegally caught fish and was issued two tickets: one for possession of undersized striped bass; and another for possession of over the daily limit of striped bass. The fisherman pleaded guilty to both charges and paid a fine of $900 for the violations.

striped bass lined up on a metal tray for measuring
Undersize Striped Bass recovered by ECOs

New York State DEC staff continue to serve in leadership roles at COVID-19 testing and vaccination sites across the state. For information about efforts to vaccinate New Yorkers and to check eligibility for vaccinations, go to New York State Department of Health's COVID-19 Vaccine website.

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