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For Release: Wednesday, February 2, 2022

Environmental Conservation Police On Patrol

New York State Department of Environmental Conservation's (DEC) Division of Law Enforcement enforces the 71 chapters of New York State's 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 2021, 282 Environmental Conservation Police Officers (ECOs) and Investigators across the state responded to 26,207 calls and worked on cases that resulted in 11,562 tickets or arrests for crimes ranging from deer poaching to solid waste dumping, illegal mining, the black market pet trade, and excessive emissions violations. Some of these incidents result in injuries, property damage, or even death, and starting this year, 'ECO Highlights' is transitioning to a new title, 'Environmental Conservation Police On Patrol.'

"DEC Environmental Conservation Police Officers and Investigators are on the front lines each and every day protecting our natural resources by upholding New York's environmental laws and regulations and safeguarding public health," DEC Commissioner Basil Seggos said. "From ensuring hunters and anglers follow rules and regulations afield and on the water, to sustaining partnerships with local law enforcement agencies investigating crimes that include solid waste dumping and air emissions violations, ECOs and Investigators are on patrol, ready to serve their communities. Each year brings new challenges, and fortunately, these Officers and Investigators are expertly trained to perform their duties with persistence, integrity, and good judgment, as they've done for over a century."

Wrong Way in the Right-of-Way - Herkimer County
On Dec. 4, ECO Jakaub received a complaint of a suspect caught in the act of shooting and killing a deer while trespassing. The property owner found the suspect under a set of power lines that run through the private property. Originally, the suspect claimed that as long as he was under the power lines, he was within a public right-of-way and allowed to be there and stated he has hunted similar right-of-ways for years. The suspect later acknowledged during an interview that he knew better. In addition, the suspect had already filled his regular season antlered tag the week prior. The deer was donated and the case went to court last month in the town of Schuyler. The hunter plead guilty to penal law trespass and two misdemeanor charges of illegally taking a white-tailed deer and taking a white-tailed deer in excess of the bag limit. He paid a fine of more than $1,000.

Social Media Posts Lead to Charges - Jefferson County
On Dec. 24, 2021, ECO McFee received a call from a resident in the town of Clayton regarding a possible trapping violation. After obtaining the name of the accused trapper, Officer McFee learned the same man had been suspected of illegal hunting activity in the area in the past. The subject also posted images on social media that provided evidence of Environmental Conservation Law violations. On Jan. 16, ECO McFee interviewed the individual and presented him with the evidence, including social media posts. In response, the suspect admitted to several wildlife violations including the illegal take of two deer during the recent hunting season. Officer McFee seized a 12-point white-tailed deer head and an illegally taken coyote during the investigation. The ECO ticketed the man for violations including trapping without a license, taking an antlerless deer without a Deer Management Permit, failure to tag a deer, taking deer with a weapon other than a muzzleloader during muzzleloader season, over the limit of white-tailed deer, illegal take of protected wildlife, and failure to report a harvest within seven days. Charges are pending in the Town of Orleans and Town of Clayton courts.

ECO in front of vehicle with stuffed coyoted and taxidermied deer head
ECO McFee with illegally taken deer head and coyote

Quick-Thinking ECO Helps Save a Life - Erie County
On Jan. 18, while patrolling the well-known fishing area at Eighteenmile Creek, ECO Mathis noticed a small and oddly parked sedan. The ECO didn't see anyone inside at first glance, but as he drove around the car again, he noticed a hose connected to the exhaust feeding into the passenger side window. Recognizing this scenario from his training, ECO Mathis immediately exited his vehicle and looked inside the car where he saw an unconscious man reclined in the driver's seat. Officer Mathis quickly opened the door to ventilate the interior and attempted to wake the man. After a few seconds, the man began to respond, but was lethargic and convulsing. ECO Mathis called an ambulance for further evaluation. Officer Mathis also recognized that the man took medication over the prescribed limit and briefed EMTs upon arrival. The man was rushed to Erie County Medical Center for treatment and survived the incident.

Caught on Tape - Jefferson County
On Jan. 20, a Watertown man paid a $700 penalty in the town of Watertown for unlawfully taking a white-tailed deer with the aid of a pre-established bait pile. On Oct. 18, 2021, ECOs Woyton and Jackson investigated a complaint of individuals trespassing and hunting deer on private posted lands. The complainant located a pop-up style hunting blind and trail camera on his family's property and called ECOs for help. The Officers reviewed images from the trail camera and found photos of a man baiting the area with corn and apples. The same subject was caught on camera hunting over the bait pile on three separate occasions, even dragging a deceased white-tailed deer on Oct. 10. Through further investigation, ECOs were able to identify and locate the suspect in the photos. The subject admitted to owning the trail camera, placing the corn and apples out for deer, and then hunting and killing a deer with the aid of the bait. ECOs charged the man with three counts of hunting deer with the aid of bait and one misdemeanor count of illegal take of big game. The man faces suspension of his hunting privileges in addition to the fine paid in court.

Trail camera photo of a man dumping corn and apples on the ground for deer
Trail camera catches man illegally baiting for deer

Night-vision trail camera pic of two people standing next to dead deer and bait pile
Deceased white-tailed deer killed by hunter using bait pile

Slippery Slope Leads to Fuel Spill - Chautauqua County
On Jan. 22, ECO Kinney responded to an accident involving a truck hauling asphalt and a sedan on State Route 60 and 83 in the town of Pomfret. The sedan's operator was unable to stop because of road conditions and a steep decline, colliding with the side of the truck. The impact ruptured a 150-gallon diesel saddle tank. The DEC Spills Response Unit and Fredonia Fire Department responded to the scene. Using a boom provided by the fire department, ECO Kinney prevented diesel from entering Canadaway Creek, a Class A trout stream. No one was injured in the accident and the quick work of all departments involved limited the amount of fuel released to the environment.

large tanker truck on a bridge in snowy conditions
Semi hauling asphalt struck by sedan in Chautauqua County

Memorial Services for Fallen NYPD Officers - New York City
On Jan. 28 and Feb. 2, DEC's Environmental Conservation Police attended the memorial services for fallen New York Police Department Officers Jason Rivera and Wilbert Mora, respectively, both at St. Patrick's Cathedral. Department of Law Enforcement was one of countless law enforcement agencies that attended the two services. Officer Rivera and fellow Officer Wilbert Mora were fatally shot by a man who opened fire during a domestic call. DEC offers its deepest condolences to the families of these two brave Officers, who made the ultimate sacrifice while protecting their community.

ECOs stand in a line during memorial service
ECOs attend memorial service for fallen NYPD Officer Jason Rivera

ECOs and other law enforcement stand in a line on the street during memorial service
ECOs join other police agencies to honor fallen NYPD Officer Wilbert Mora

Weekend Snowmobile Patrols - Fulton County
On the weekend of Jan. 28, Environmental Conservation Police Officers Manns, Shaw, Pasciak, Leubner, and Doroski began a multi-day detail focusing on snowmobile activity. ECOs partnered with deputies from the Fulton County Sheriff's Office and the New York State Police in an enforcement initiative aimed at ensuring citizens recreating on the snowmobile trails were doing so safely. Over the weekend, the detail encountered approximately 75 snowmobile operators. Seven tickets were issued for snowmobile regulation violations. The detail included portions of the towns of Perth and Mayfield and areas along the border of Saratoga County.

Law enforcement on snowmobiles at night
ECOs and Fulton County Sheriff's Deputies gearing up for night patrol on the trails

Law enforcement on snowmobiles during daytime patrol
ECOs, Fulton County Sheriff's Deputies, and State Troopers ready for snowmobile patrol on local trails

Ice Rescue Training - Ulster County
On Jan. 29-30, ECO Grose completed a 16-hour ice/cold water rescue technician class. The training was completed in Ulster County and consisted of local fire departments and EMS volunteers.

People wearing orange and yellow safety gear on the ice during training
Ice rescue training in Ulster County

Feb. 2 is World Wetlands Day
To commemorate World Wetlands Day, DEC reminds New Yorkers to be mindful of the State's wetlands and the many species that inhabit them. Wetlands (swamps, marshes, bogs, and similar areas) are areas saturated by surface or ground water sufficient to support distinctive vegetation adapted for life in saturated soil conditions. Wetlands serve as natural habitat for many species of plants and animals and absorb the forces of flood and tidal erosion to prevent loss of upland soil.

view from the sky above a large wetland
Ariel view of New York wetland

Recent wetlands cases investigated by ECOs:

Landowner Settles Wetlands Case - Orange County
In 2021, a landowner appeared in court and paid a $4,000 fine for destroying a wetland in Orange County. On Dec. 3, 2020, ECO Schneider responded to a wetland complaint called in by a DEC employee. ECO Schneider responded to the area and observed approximately four to five acres of State-regulated wetlands that had been clear-cut and bulldozed. The landowner received remediation instructions in addition to the tickets for the destruction.

land destroyed by bulldozer
Bulldozed wetland

Don't Swamp Buggy Here - Dutchess County
In 2021, ECOs in Dutchess County responded to a protected wetland that was also home to the endangered bog turtle. These small turtles live in unique wetland areas with specific vegetation needed for their life cycle. There are a handful of these specific wetland habitats in New York State. The wetland in question was being used by an individual to recreationally operate a swamp buggy. This activity causes severe damage to the bog turtle's habitat. An ECO responded to the location and followed the tracks back to the point of origin, located the operator of the buggy, and issued the subject tickets for the damage caused to the wetland.

person walking along muddy path where wetland has been disturbed
Impacted wetland is home to endangered bog turtles

DEC Staff holding a small black turtle in the palm of their hand
Endangered bog turtle

2021-2022 Hunting Season Enforcement - Statewide
During the 2021-2022 hunting seasons, ECOs patrolled the lands and waters of New York State to ensure hunters were hunting safely and in accordance with the State Environmental Conservation Law. With the final day of the open deer season now closed, ECOs compiled information about offenses.

During the 2021/2022 hunting seasons, ECOs issued:

  • 1,564 violation level offenses
  • 691 misdemeanor level offenses
  • 1 felony level offense
  • 99 written warnings

Most infractions occurred during deer hunting season, the most popular big game species to hunt. Officers issued a total of 2,051 charges for infractions of deer hunting regulations. Waterfowl hunting infractions accounted for the second highest category with 184. Of all the charges filed, civilian complaints regarding unlawful action accounted for 1,396 of the enforcement actions initiated.

ECOs remind everyone to exercise safety and prudence when out in the field recreating. If anyone sees a potential environmental crime, report it to 1-844-DEC-ECOs (1-844-332-3267).

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