Department of Environmental Conservation

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For Release: Wednesday, September 1, 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).

Kayaker Rescue - Suffolk County
In August, while patrolling Captree State Park to ensure anglers are in compliance with recreational saltwater fishing guidelines, ECO Perkins monitored a call over the New York State Park Police (NYSPP) radio reporting three kayakers overturned and in the water near the main fishing pier. Officer Perkins responded, along with members of the U.S. Coast Guard (USCG), NYSPP, and Suffolk County Police Department's Marine Bureau. The Marine Bureau deployed an Officer into the water to assist one kayaker through the strong current while the USCG used a line to safely guide another. The third kayaker safely climbed up the dock with assistance from other responders. Islip Rescue evaluated the three kayakers and all declined further medical treatment.

ECOs and kayakers after rescue, sitting on pier
Rescue teams help bring kayakers to safety

Epic Failure X 2 - Onondaga County
On the evening of Aug. 9, a man backed his Jeep and boat trailer, with boat attached, into Onondaga Lake-missing the DEC boat launch by 50 feet and becoming stuck in mud along the shoreline. One tow truck and $800 later, the man drove away unscathed without reporting the incident to DEC's Division of Law Enforcement. Three days later, on Aug. 12, the same man successfully navigated the ramp at the same boat launch, but failed to apply the brakes, fully submerging his trailer and Jeep in Onondaga Lake. The allegedly intoxicated man miraculously escaped through the window of the vehicle and made it to shore. This time, a witness called 911. ECO Damrath, along with Geddes Police and Onondaga County Parks Police, responded to the boat launch immediately. ECO Damrath noted the sheen of gasoline and garbage leaking from the man's vehicle and contacted Region 7 Spill Response experts. NRC Environmental Services responded to contain the fuel spill. Thanks to cooperating witness statements, ECO Damrath charged the driver with several violations of Environmental Conservation Law and State regulations. Geddes Police is leading the DWI investigation.

boat and submerged Jeep between two docks
Submerged vehicle at the DEC boat launch on Onondaga Lake

Building Bridges - Niagara County
On Aug. 18, ECOs Sheer, Holzle, Gill, and DEC Bureau of Fisheries Biologist Mike Todd conducted youth fishing outreach in support of the Niagara County Building Bridges program. DEC partners with the Niagara County Sheriff's Office, City of Niagara Falls Police Department, and County Legislator Owen Steed on Building Bridges to help foster relationships between youth and law enforcement in social settings. The program's youth fishing event was held at Bonds Lake Park in the town of Lewiston. Twelve children, ranging in age from eight to 17, attended the event. ECOs and Biologist Todd taught fish identification and handling, casting techniques, and knot tying before heading to the water to practice their new skills. At the end of the outreach, Officers provided attendees with fishing equipment including a fishing pole, hooks and bobber, hat, and a fishing bucket. The equipment was generously donated by Runnings Outdoor Store in Lockport and the New York Conservation Officers Association.

ECO talking to young kids about fishing
ECO Scheer welcomes aspiring anglers to the fishing event

ECO and young angler stand at water's edge while fishing
ECO Holzle assisting young angler with a tangled line

Flooding Response Search and Rescue Operations - Multiple Regions
On the morning of Aug. 18, DECs Division of Law Enforcement began preparing for Tropical Storm Fred. The storm brought heavy rains that caused widespread flooding across the Southern Tier and Central New York. Under the leadership of the New York State Division of Homeland Security and Emergency Services (DHSES), DLE worked closely with the State's multi-agency Flood Incident Strike Team to rescue individuals and families from high water. In Herkimer County, team members diverted traffic from flooded roads. These efforts saved lives and prevented possible further loss of property.

ECO looking out onto dark water at night

spotlight shining on flood waters and house in the distance
ECO Wing assessing flood conditions

While flooding caused by Fred wreaked havoc in upstate New York, Tropical Storm Henri picked up in intensity and became a hurricane as it approached Long Island. The Flood Incident Strike Team reconvened on less than a day's rest and deployed to Long Island and the Hudson Valley. Henri crossed Long Island and traveled into the Hudson Valley/Capital District where it hovered and flooded more New Yorkers. Fortunately, teams were prepared for any life-threatening conditions.

ECOs pose for photo in front of emergency vehicles
New York State Environmental Conservation Police Flood Incident Strike Team

photo of park sign with major flooding in the background
CD Lane Park in Greene County during Henri

photo of park with fall decorations and people in the background
CD Lane Park in Greene County during normal weather

Double Raptor Rescue - Ulster and Sullivan Counties
On Aug. 23, ECO Walraven received a call from a New York State Trooper out of the Ellenville Barracks reporting an injured red-tailed hawk at a local residence. The bird appeared to be unable to fly and in need of rehabilitative care. ECO Walraven responded and successfully captured the hawk. During the rescue, the ECO received a second call regarding an injured barred owl in Sullivan County. ECO Walraven gathered both raptors and transported them to the Friends of the Feathered and Furry Wildlife Rehabilitation Center in Greene County for medical treatment. Sadly, the red-tailed hawk succumbed to its injuries. However, despite a broken humerus the spotted owl is responding well to treatment. If the owl is successfully rehabilitated, the bird will be released back into the wild.

small owl sitting on a towel after rescue
Rescued barred owl

Nothing But Net - Sullivan County
On Aug. 25, ECO Wood responded to several calls about a distressed deer stuck in a net in Woodbourne. When he arrived, ECO Wood met with Officers from the Fallsburg Police Department, two members of the Woodbourne Fire Department, and the property's caretaker. They observed what appeared to be an eight-point buck with its antlers stuck in a large soccer-type net in the backyard of the home. ECO Wood feared that waiting for equipment to safely tranquilize the deer might lead to the deer breaking its neck or succumbing to stress in the extreme heat. Instead, ECO Wood requested that all police and fire personnel on scene assist him in holding down the deer once it flopped to the ground. Once the group secured its body, ECO Wood and a Fallsburg Police Detective controlled the animal's antlers and cut away the netting. Once the netting was removed, the deer was released and ran off from the location.

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