Department of Environmental Conservation

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For Release: Friday, April 15, 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."

Long Island 7-11 Returnable Container Law Detail, March 2022
Throughout March, ECOs in DEC Region 1 responded to complaints of nearly a dozen stores refusing to accept returnable bottles and cans. The ECOs visited different stores across Long Island attempting to return cans and bottles and checking for proper signage at the stores. The detail included stops at more than 50 stores, with 17 violations issued for 'failure to accept' and a lack of signage. Officers revisited these same stores one day later and most had already made the necessary corrections to come into compliance.

Alligator Tales - Erie and Chautauqua Counties
On March 22, ECO Damrath received a call from a man in the town of Amherst claiming he had recently rescued an alligator from a bad home and needed assistance rehoming it. However, when questioned, the subject's rescue tale fell apart and he admitted to buying the alligator to keep as a pet. Recognizing a 3.5-foot alligator is too dangerous and difficult to care for, the owner attempted to sell it without success. ECO Damrath charged the man with unlawfully possessing the animal and the alligator was turned over to a permitted handler. After a few days, ECOs Damrath, Dougherty, and Koepf tracked down the original seller of the alligator in the city of Dunkirk, Chautauqua County, and charged the individual with unlawfully possessing an alligator. The investigation is ongoing, with additional charges pending.

man holding small alligator
Alligator handler with seized gator

Scavenger Hunt - Suffolk County
On March 30, DEC Wildlife employees requested assistance from ECOs to locate a mallard duck equipped with a radio transmitter. The duck had appeared to stop moving. ECO DeRose brought in K9 Cramer, trained and certified in waterfowl detection, to assist in the search. The K9 team responded to the wooded area of the last known GPS signal for the duck, and located two piles of feathers near an active fox den. The team was unable to locate a carcass or the transmitter inside the fox den, so DEC Wildlife requested an additional GPS ping. A few days later, the ping indicated the transmitter was still receiving sunlight and in the same location Officers originally visited. ECOs DeRose and Paschke returned to the area and focused on finding the small transmitter unit. As they searched the area, ECOs spotted a small black cord that led them to the transmitter, buried under leaves. The Officers returned the transmitter to Wildlife employees for use in gathering important data on flight and migratory patterns of waterfowl.

person holding small brown transmitter with leaves in the background
Missing transmitter found underneath leaves

K9 Benny Visits Girl Scouts - St. Lawrence County
On April 2, ECO Schneller and his partner K9 Benny met with 21 Daisy Girl Scouts from Troop #50233 at Heuvelton Central School. ECO Schneller explained his job and assignment to the DLE K9 unit with Benny, a highly trained police dog. The Officer demonstrated K9 Benny's detection capabilities, including powder and venison detection, to the Girl Scouts. ECO Schneller also answered questions from the troop before everyone treated themselves to Girl Scout cookies.

ECO and K9 partner standing in classroom
Officer Schneller and partner K9 Benny meet with Girl Scouts in St. Lawrence County

All Tangled Up - Suffolk County
On April 2, while assisting DEC Fisheries employees at a freshwater fishing derby, ECOs Dickson and DeRose encountered a group of anglers who reported an osprey caught in fishing line. The ECOs and Fisheries Biologists quickly responded to the other side of Belmont Lake State Park where the incident occurred. The Officers safely detangled the bird before it flew away uninjured and resumed its own fishing for the day.

Two ECOs holding a bird trapped in fishing line
ECOs DeRose and Dickson work to free tangled osprey

ECO holding large bird that has its wings spread ready to fly
Officers free tangled osprey moments before it flies away

Freshwater Fishing Derby - Suffolk County
After dealing with the osprey, ECO DeRose continued assisting with the Freshwater Fishing Derby alongside ECO Kaufherr at Belmont Lake State Park. Hundreds of anglers of all ages lined the lake to try their luck in the freshly stocked pond. The ECOs patrolled the lake, assisted anglers with fish identification, and ensured everyone followed all DEC fishing regulations. The event was a success by all accounts.

Three ECOs stand with a small child holding a fishing pole next to water
ECOs Dickson, DeRose, and Kaugherr with young angler at freshwater fishing derby

Out-of-Season Striped Bass Busters - New York City Counties
The weekend of April 2 and 3 proved to be busy for ECOs in Region 2 conducting boat patrols with the U.S. Coast Guard in Raritan and Jamaica bays. Officers checked several recreational and charter boats and seized 36 out-of-season striped bass. ECOs Milliron and Michalet responded to an evening poaching complaint in Bronx County, which resulted in 37 out-of-season striped bass. In total, 16 tickets were issued for Environmental Conservation Law violations including possession of undersized striped bass and failure to release fish with undue harm. Arraignment dates are set for mid-April in Richmond and Bronx counties.

Large fish lined up on a small dock next to ECO patrol boat
30 poached out of season striped bass

ECO and US Coast Guard personnel stand on boat deck next to 6 large fish
ECO Currey (center) with USCG Personnel McGinley (left) and Machado (right)

Large fish that have been gutted and cleaned scattered on cement docking area
Thirty-seven out-of-season poached striped bass from Bronx County

two ECOs shine their flashlights on a large pile of fish
ECOs Michalet (left) and ECO Milliron (right) with poached striped bass

ECO Locates Missing Man - Columbia County
On April 3, ECO Cox responded to the town of Chatham to assist the Columbia County Sheriff's Department with a call for a missing elderly man. The individual took a walk with his dog and after an hour and a half, the dog came back alone, prompting the subject's wife to call 911. ECO Cox began walking trails in the back of the missing man's property and located him on a logging road going through the woods. The man tripped over a log and was unable to get back up. When ECO Cox located the subject, who was cold and wet, but in good spirits. Several Columbia County Sherriff's Deputies and New York State Troopers arrived and helped carry the missing man out of the woods. The Chatham Rescue Squad then brought him to the hospital for observation.

Hawk Rescue - Orleans County
On April 4, Orleans County ECO Fonda responded to a complaint of a hawk in distress at Lakeside State Park in the town of Carlton. When Officer Fonda arrived, he found a juvenile red-tailed hawk with its leg caught in a picnic table, unable to free itself. ECO Fonda safely freed the hawk from its precarious perch and released it unharmed.

To check out a video of the rescue, visit DEC's website.

Injured Red-Tailed Hawk - Suffolk County
On April 5, Suffolk County Police requested assistance with an injured bird of prey blocking the roadway. ECO DeRose responded and found a red-tailed hawk standing in the roadway, unable to gain height when attempting to fly. ECO DeRose was able to corral the hawk and safely capture it without causing further injury. ECO DeRose transported the hawk to a local wildlife rehabilitator who examined the bird and determined it had a laceration under one of its wings from an apparent car strike, but no broken bones. Rehabilitators cleaned the hawk, closed the laceration, and kept it for observation.

ECO holds a large hawk with a gloved hand
ECO DeRose with injured hawk

Trapped Fox - Rensselaer County
On April 5, ECO Crain received reports from a homeowner in the town of Nassau claiming she heard an animal in distress that fell approximately five feet into an outdoor enclosure that surrounds their furnace exhaust pipe. When Officer Crain arrived, the homeowner advised that she saw an adult red fox pacing back and forth in her yard before she heard the noises. ECO Crain shined a light on the bottom of the enclosure and saw the kit (young fox) partially hidden underneath the furnace pipe. Using a cordless drill, the ECO removed the plywood cover to the enclosure and attempted to capture the kit with a catchpole. The kit, however, crawled underneath the pipe to avoid capture. ECO Crain then utilized a ladder to get into the pit to capture and release the kit uninjured. Before clearing the scene, ECO Crain cut wire fencing the homeowner had on hand and secured it over the open area of the enclosure.

View from above ECO in furnace enclosure
ECO Crain enters enclosure to rescue fox

ECO Holds fox using a pole with a loop at the end
ECO Crain uses catchpole to capture fox

Fox running across field towards woods
Fox runs off after rescue

Venison Donation for Seniors - Montgomery County
On April 6, ECOs Valenty and Bush participated in the annual Venison for Seniors of Montgomery County donation program. The program, in conjunction with 'Hunters Feeding the Hungry,' was initiated by local sportsman Tom Georgia and delivers donated venison to resident seniors and soldiers. This year, the group donated 450 pounds of venison to approximately 50 residents with the help of volunteers from area police departments. ECOs and other law enforcement Officers from the Montgomery County Sheriff's Office, city of Amsterdam, and the villages of St. Johnsville, Ft. Plain, and Canajoharie participated in the donation delivery.

Volunteers, ECOs, and other law enforcement take a group photo at a large, long table with paper bags on it
Volunteers and police officers at Montgomery County Sheriff's Office headquarters

ECO Pulls Man from Burning Vehicle - Putnam County
On April 7, ECO Franz was on patrol when he observed a vehicle over the edge of an embankment at the intersection of Route 301 and Gipsy Trail Road in the town of Carmel. Officer Franz sprang into action after observing a man and dog trapped inside the vehicle following the crash. The fire was spreading quickly underneath the vehicle and the driver was unable to get out on his own. ECO Franz crawled into the burning car through the passenger side, retrieved the dog, and pulled the driver out of the mangled car, dragging him a few yards away before the car exploded into a ball of fire. Emergency Medical Services transported the man and his dog for a medical evaluation. ECO Franz, unscathed, continued his patrol that evening.

flames erupt from a car
Vehicle explodes seconds after man and dog are pulled from the inside

ECO holding a sturgeon
ECO Franz

Seal on the Beach - Suffolk County
On April 9, ECO Dickson received a call from Central Dispatch reporting an injured seal on the beach at Gilgo State Park. Officer Dickson responded, located the seal a quarter of a mile down the beach, and contacted the New York Marine Rescue Center to report the find. The Center identified the seal as a gray seal pup. ECO Dickson did not see any signs of sickness or injury, but alerted New York State Park Police and people fishing in the area to use caution when driving on the beach. ECO Dickson returned the following morning, as requested by the marine center, and noticed the gray seal pup was no longer laying on the beach and likely had returned to the ocean. Seals and other marine mammals, including whales, dolphins, and porpoises, are protected under the Marine Mammal Protection Act, a federal law that mandates people to stay an appropriate distance away from animals to ensure these animals are not disturbed and to keep the public safe. For more information, go to DEC's website.

small grey seal on a sandy beach
Seal found on Suffolk County beach

Out of Season - Nassau County
ECOs on Long Island recently held several details looking for anglers fishing for striped bass out of season. The striper season remains closed until April 15, but Officers discovered many anglers ignoring the rules. In the first week of April, ECOs issued more than 40 tickets in Nassau County for fishing for striped bass out of season. In addition, fish were undersized, and many anglers were found fishing without a recreational marine fishing registry card.

Flashlight shines on K9 officer sitting next to three large fish
K9 Cramer with out-of-season striped bass

Basic Criminal Investigator Course - Nassau County
Environmental Conservation Investigators Eastwood, Farrish, and Grady recently attended the Nassau County Police Department Basic Criminal Investigator Course at Nassau's Center for Training and Intelligence. More than 60 detectives and investigators from multiple agencies attended the training. Forensic evidence, social networking, interview and interrogation, courtroom testimony, locating suspects, and case preparation were just some of the topics covered. During the course, organizers also set up a mock crime scene for students to investigate while instructors shared a wealth of knowledge and experience with the class.

Three ECOs in suits take a photo outside Police Department
DEC Investigators at Basic Criminal Investigator Course in Nassau County

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