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For Release: Wednesday, April 28, 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 1880, the first eight Game Protectors proudly began serving to protect the natural resources and people of New York State. 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.

"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).

No Home for Construction Debris - Suffolk County
On March 6, the Central Pine Barrens Commission reached out to DEC after capturing photos of a truck dumping construction debris on New York State Pine Barrens property in Rocky Point. DEC's investigation determined a local resident was responsible for the dumping. On April 9, ECO Kaufherr issued a Notice of Violation to the responsible party, and on April 21, the subject met with Acting Captain Gadomski to sign an Order on Consent and pay a $2,000 fine. Illegal dumping is an ongoing issue around the Pine Barrens and the Pine Barrens Commission and DEC continue to investigate and track down those responsible in order to prevent future dumping.

large pile of debris in the woods
Debris dumped at New York State Pine Barrens

Caught on Tape - Town of Brookhaven, Suffolk County
In conjunction with the Pine Barrens Commission's Law Enforcement Council (PBLEC) and the Suffolk County Sheriff's Department, ECOs issued a $2,000 fine for unlawfully dumping construction and demolition debris and other waste in Yaphank on April 20. This location in Yaphank has become a popular spot for illegal dumping, causing the PBLEC to set up cameras to assist with enforcement efforts. On March 7, the camera captured a pickup truck and trailer dumping debris in the area. Using these photos, the Suffolk County Sherriff's Department identified and located the culprit. The responsible party admitted to the crime saying he did it because he was in a rush and needed the trailer empty. In addition to the $2,000 fine, the subject was ordered to clean the area and provide proof that he properly disposed of the trash.

Truck with large trailer full of debris debris dumped in the woods
Security cameras capture illegal dumping in Suffolk County

ECO Amato Receives Pine Barrens Commission Award - Brookhaven Township, Suffolk County
Each year, PBLEC awards officers from partner agencies for their outstanding efforts protecting the critical habitat of the Long Island Pine Barrens. On April 8 at Southaven County Park, the Law Enforcement Council recognized ECO Chris Amato as 2020's "ECO of the Year" for his commitment to protecting the state's natural resources. ECO Amato's patrol area encompasses much of the Pine Barrens corridor on Long Island and he has been integral in helping to prevent illegal dumping in the area.

ECO poses with ECO of the Year Award
ECO Amato awarded "ECO of the Year" for work in the Long Island Pine Barrens

Walleye Spawning Detail - Madison County
During the first three weeks of April, ECOs in Madison County conducted focused patrols of several creeks and streams entering Oneida Lake along the lake's south shore. These patrols were initiated to protect walleye during annual spawning runs upstream from Oneida Lake. ECOs conducted foot, canoe, and boat patrols along Oneida Lake and Chittenango, Cowaselon, and Canaseraga creeks to look for poachers who would take advantage of these vulnerable spawning fish. The successful detail resulted in more than 40 tickets being issued for violations associated with taking walleye.

Help Sought to Solve Eagle Shooting - Broome County
On April 3, ECOs received a complaint about an unknown individual shooting a duck or goose. ECO McCormick responded, and upon investigation, determined the shot bird was a bald eagle. A forensic examination determined the eagle was shot by a large caliber rifle. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service is offering a reward of up to $5,000 to eligible individuals for information that significantly furthers this investigation or leads to enforcement action against the person or persons who shot the bald eagle. The eagle is believed to have been perched in a tree on the edge of a field near 1022 Nanticoke road in the town of Nanticoke, Broome County, when it was shot.

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and the New York State Environmental Conservation Police are asking anyone with information about this incident to contact either Environmental Conservation Officer McCormick at (607) 621-3464, Special Agent Bessey with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service in Amherst, NY at (716) 691-3635 x205, or 1-844-FWS-TIPS (397-8477)

Although bald eagles are no longer listed as federally endangered, these birds remain protected under the New York State Environmental Conservation Law and the federal Migratory Bird Treaty and Bald and Golden Eagle Protection acts. Maximum fines are $15,000 and $100,000, respectively, with possible imprisonment up to one year.

deceased bald eagle in the grass
Bald Eagle shot in Broome County

Persistence Pays Off - Sullivan County
On April 13, an illegal bear case pending in the Town of Fallsburg Court was resolved after years of persistence, patience, K9 assistance, DNA testing, and a photograph.

In September 2019, ECO Wood received a complaint about suspects unlawfully shooting a bear with the aid of bait in the town of Fallsburg. The illegal activity reportedly happened over the final weekend of the early bear season. ECO Wood responded to the area and patrolled on foot with his partner, K9 Deming. ECO Wood located two stands around a bait pile and K9 Deming located blood and black fur. ECO Wood photographed the area and collected the blood for potential future testing.

On opening day of rifle deer season in November 2019, ECO Wood returned to the area with K9 Deming and a New York State Trooper as part of the annual Green and Gray Patrol, a detail that pairs ECOs and Troopers in areas with a high call volume during hunting seasons. During the patrol, the Officers observed hunter Michael Travis in one of the bait stands with his younger brother. When asked who else was hunting, Travis was adamant that he was alone. However, K9 Deming quickly tracked to a vehicle in the woods where another hunter, Tasha Curry, was found hiding with her rifle. Officers interviewed Travis and Curry and charged them with hunting deer with the aid of bait. Curry was issued an additional charge of failing to report her bear harvest during the previous bear hunting season as required.

ECO Wood remained committed to finding the bear and solving the illegal bear take case. The two hunters eventually admitted to killing a bear illegally and taking it to a residence in Ulster County until they could get it mounted. ECO Wood made several attempts to locate the bear carcass at the Ulster County residence with negative results, but eventually found it at Travis' residence. DNA test results confirmed that the animal was the bear killed in September 2019. In addition, ECO Wood observed a photograph of Curry posing with the bear in the same area of the bait stands, where the evidence was found.

On Feb. 4, 2020, Travis and Curry appeared in Fallsburg Court for hunting deer with bait on the opening day of rifle season. Both pleaded guilty and were fined. The illegal bear case was resolved in the Town of Fallsburg Court on April 13, 2021. Curry and Travis each pleaded guilty to the misdemeanor charges of taking protected wildlife except as permitted by Fish and Wildlife Law. They were each fined $2,000 for the illegal bear and mandated to pay a $120 surcharge, plus $450 in DNA testing restitution, to DEC.

The Over-Friendly Turkey - Erie County
On April 14, ECO Koepf received a call from State Trooper Montante about a turkey in a rest stop parking lot off the Thruway in Angola. The turkey was reportedly extremely friendly, allowing people to pet it, and refused to leave the area. ECOs Koepf and Machnica responded to the location and observed the full-grown turkey hanging out near the Trooper's car. The officers were caught the turkey without incident, placed it in a container for transport, and drove the bird to a more rural area where it was released, unharmed.

Illegal Netting of Herring - Ulster County
On April 16, ECO Johnson conducted a nighttime patrol of Black Creek in the town of Esopus in response to several complaints about people using nets to catch river herring, which is illegal in any embayment or tributary. During his patrol, ECO Johnson observed two individuals by the side of the creek with seven herring in a bag and no fishing poles. After questioning the pair and finding their net, ECO Johnson issued the individuals several summonses for taking herring with a net in a tributary and failing to carry a fishing license. While leaving the area, ECO Johnson noticed another car pull up to the creek and two additional subjects netting for herring. The anglers had just started and hadn't caught any fish, but were also issued summonses for attempting to take herring with a net. The violations carry a fine of up to $250 per fish and forfeiture of all nets upon conviction.

Seven fish lined up on a truck bed with a tangled net next to them
Illegally taken river herring and seized cast net

Sick Seal Recovery - Suffolk County
On April 18, ECOs McCabe, Doroski, and Bobseine assisted a New York Marine Rescue Center team in collecting a harp seal in Amagansett. The seal appeared sick. East Hampton Marine Patrol found the animal after it had been reported by a member of the public. ECOs assisted with getting the seal into a transport cage and loading it into the Marine Rescue Team's truck for transport to biologists for treatment.

ECOs carry a crate onto the beach from the edge of the waves
ECOs McCabe and Bobseine maneuver transport cage into position for NYMRC biologists

Earth Week Pesticides Detail - Westchester County
During Earth Week 2021, Lt. Dainack and ECOs Crisafulli, Franz, and Swansen, with assistance from DEC Bureau of Pesticides employees, conducted a pesticides detail in Westchester County. Teams spread out across the county looking for opportunities to catch violators and educate residents. The teams conducted details in Rye, Eastchester, Bronxville, Mamaroneck, New Rochelle, Scarsdale, Harrison, Sleepy Hollow, and Croton-on-Hudson. ECOs issued a total of 19 summonses to companies for violations, including: failure to display decals on two sides of equipment; unlawful storage of pesticides; operating an unregistered pesticide business; unlabeled pesticide service container; unlicensed pesticide applicator; possessing unregistered pesticide; and failure to affix pesticide markers. To ensure compliance and safety with the State's stringent pesticide requirements, DEC has a free compliance checklist.

ECO inspects pesticides in back of box truck ECO points to back of landscaping trailer
ECOs Franz and Swansen conduct pesticide compliance checks during Earth Week

ECOs and other staff pose for photo in parking lot in front of ECO vehicle
Division of Law Enforcement Officers and DEC Pesticide Program Personnel following pesticide details in Queens, Kings, and Bronx counties

Baby Stripers - Town of Brookhaven, Suffolk County
On April 24, while on evening patrol, ECO Grady received a tip about a subject fishing at the end of the new jetty at Cedar Beach by the inlet to Mount Sinai Harbor. The complainant said the angler was catching and keeping small striped bass in a blue cooler stashed in some rocks. The complainant had already informed the fisherman that the fish he caught were unlawful to keep, but the angler ignored the warning. ECO Grady arrived at the location just as the subject was loading his fishing gear into the trunk of his car. ECO Grady could see a fish tail sticking out of the cooler and proceeded to inspect its contents. The ECO found two small striped bass outside the legal slot size limits and ticketed the angler for possession of over-limit and undersized fish. The Officer then returned the striped bass to the water.

two small striped bass on a truck bed with a measuring tape next to them
Undersized striped bass, Mt. Sinai Harbor

ECO stands at back of truck showing fisherman how to measure fish
ECO Grady shows violator how to properly measure fish

Night Watch - Town of Babylon, Suffolk County
On April 24, with the start of striped bass season, ECOs Dickson and Della Rocco conducted a marine fishing enforcement detail at Robert Moses State Park and Fire Island National Seashore. The ECOs spent the night interviewing anglers surfcasting off the south shore beaches and educating the public on circle hook regulations. A few written warnings were issued for failures to possess a valid marine fishing license. The Officers were excited to see many new surfcasters trying out saltwater fishing for the first time.

ECOs approach a truck on the beach
ECO Dickson and ECO Della Rocco patrol south shore beaches on Long Island

11th Annual Yates County Youth Turkey Hunt - Yates County
Over the weekend of April 24, several municipalities across New York State held their annual youth turkey hunts. In Yates County, the annual youth turkey hunt began in 2010 as a collaborative effort by Lt. Matt Lochner and a dedicated group of volunteers and sponsors focused on increasing and promoting youth hunting opportunities in and around the Finger Lakes region. Over the past several years, this event has provided a positive youth hunting experience to an estimated 300 first-time turkey hunters from across New York State and beyond. This year, due to the generosity of the Penn Yan Moose Lodge, New York State Conservation Officers Association, Schuyler County Sheriff's Association, O.F. Mossberg and Sons, Rock Ridge Outdoors - Dead Ringer / The Grind, Bass Pro Shops, and local sponsors, all 25 participating young people received a turkey vest, hat, gloves, face mask, calls, gun case, and Dead Ringer peep sights, among other giveaways. For more information, check out the Yates County Youth Turkey Hunt Facebook page.

Youth hunters pose for a photo with a banner and their turkeys
Youth hunt participants in St. Lawrence County - one of many successful hunts held across New York State

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