Department of Environmental Conservation

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For Release: Wednesday, August 17, 2022

Environmental Conservation Police on Patrol

The 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 violations ranging from deer poaching to solid waste dumping, illegal mining, the black market pet trade, and excessive emissions violations.

"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."

Dumper Pays Big Fine - Suffolk County
On July 20, a Suffolk County man paid a sizeable fine for unlawfully dumping solid waste. In December 2021, ECOs arrested Anthony Falcone of Port Washington after determining Falcone trucked in more than 700 cubic yards of illegal material to the Finks Family Farm in the town of Riverhead to adjust the grade of slope on the property. DEC tested samples and determined the piles contained soil mixed with pulverized construction and demolition debris. Falcone removed the piles and DEC's Division of Material Management supervised the cleanup. Falcone pleaded guilty to a misdemeanor unlawful disposal of solid waste charge and paid a fine of $18,750 in the Town of Riverhead Justice Court.

large piles of dirt in fenced-in area
Illegal material brought to Riverhead farm

Barrels-O-Fish - Nassau County
At midnight on July 31, New York State Park Police requested ECO assistance after locating drums of fish along the roadside of Bay Parkway in Jones Beach State Park and observing subjects fleeing the area. Park Police Officers detained two people and ECO Pabes arrived minutes later. Once on scene, the ECO combed through multiple 30- and 15-gallon drums of baitfish and found 10 undersized summer flounder (fluke), 19 bluefish, undersized blue claw crabs, and hundreds of pounds of a baitfish called spearing. The subjects also used a seine net larger than the legal size allowed for recreational harvest to capture the fish and did not have marine registries. ECO Pabes issued tickets for undersized fluke, excess bluefish, undersized blue claw crabs, use of an illegal seine net in Hempstead Bay, taking fish by commercial means without a license, and failure to carry a marine registry. All charges are returnable to Nassau First District Court. Officers also seized the fish, drums, and seine net.

Dark photo of fish on the back of a truck, blue drums, and a large net
Illegal fish, drums, and seine net

Evening Seine Netting - Nassau County
On Aug. 3, ECO DeRose received a complaint about a large group using a large seine net near the Jones Beach State Park fishing pier and not culling their catch. Officer DeRose responded to the fishing pier and observed a rolled-up net, small bait fish in bags, and multiple five-gallon buckets. After examining the net, the Officer determined it was shorter than the legal maximum width but two feet above the maximum allowable height. The ECO spent two hours sifting through thousands of spearing and other baitfish, one handful at a time and found the group in possession of 120 snappers (99 over the limit of three per angler), five fluke under 19 inches, two out-of-season blackfish, and two undersized blue claw crabs. ECO DeRose issued several tickets returnable to Nassau First District Court, including possessing over-the-limit snapper, undersized fluke, out-of-season blackfish, and taking food fish by net without a food fish license.

ECO's hand with many small fish in it, with two large buckets of small fish in the background
ECO DeRose handles fish pulled from buckets in Nassau County

Bad Luck - Nassau County
On Aug. 3, while patrolling Jones Beach State Park on his Utility Terrain Vehicle (UTV), ECO Pabes encountered an angler with an undersized fluke hidden among supplies. Officer Pabes issued the angler a ticket for undersized fluke before continuing his patrol. Later that day, the ECO observed the same angler on the beach with an injury to his foot. The angler stated he was stung in the foot by a stingray, leaving him in excruciating pain. ECO Pabes saw the barb lodged in the fisherman's foot and helped him to the UTV for transport to the Jones Beach West End parking lot where EMTs waited. The angler is expected to make a speedy recovery. The fluke was donated to a wildlife rehabilitator to serve as food for recovering animals.

fish in the back of a UTV, an EMS truck in the background
Undersized fluke

Truck Detail - Essex County
On Aug. 3, ECOs in Essex County joined the New York State Police Commercial Vehicle Enforcement Unit for a vehicle checkpoint focusing on emissions in the town of Schroon. Officers checked many trucks and tested the exhaust on 10 stacks emitting visible smoke. While none of the trucks were over the opacity limit, the ECOs issued tickets to three drivers for inadequate leaking exhausts. Officers took one truck out of service for multiple violations.

ECO standing next to large red tractor trailer while speaking with the driver
ECO Nicols at truck emissions detail checkpoint in Essex County

Bunker Bust - Nassau County
On Aug. 4, ECO DeRose received a complaint about a group using a large net to catch peanut bunker (small Atlantic Menhaden) near the Jones Beach State Park fishing pier. The caller believed the party was storing the bunker in a vehicle in the parking lot. Officer DeRose watched from a distance and spotted a group eating lunch in a picnic area but did not see a net. Once the group finished eating, ECO DeRose saw the subjects remove a net from a vehicle in the parking lot, walk the pier, and cast the net into the water to catch fish. After retrieving the net, the subjects dumped their catch into buckets. ECO DeRose approached the subjects, advised them of applicable fishing regulations, and undertook the arduous task of counting the catch. In total, the four adults and three children possessed 2,417 bunker, well over the 100-per-person limit. Officer DeRose issued a ticket to each of the adults for possessing 1,717 bunker over the daily limit, returnable to Nassau First District Court.

Gray crate filled with small fish next to ECO vehicle
Sample of bunker seized during Nassau County fish check

Baby Opossums Rescued - Cattaraugus/Chautauqua Counties
On Aug. 5, ECO Powers assisted in the rescue of baby opossums in Cattaraugus County after their mother was struck by a vehicle. Given their age, Officer Powers worked quickly to retrieve the babies and successfully transport them to a wildlife rehabilitation center in the town of Kennedy in Chautauqua County.

two baby opossums in a cardboard box
Rescued opossums before transport to rehab center

Lying About an Alligator - Suffolk County
On Aug. 5, ECO DeRose transported an illegally owned alligator to a reptile refuge and animal sanctuary in Massachusetts. In late July, Officer DeRose received information that an alligator approximately four to five feet in length was being kept as a pet at a private home in Bayport, town of Islip. DEC Bureau of Environmental Crimes Investigators followed up on the tip, conducting surveillance on the property for several weeks. After determining the subjects in possession of the alligator did not have a permit to own it, Investigators Eastwood and Grady attempted to contact them without success. When the Officers finally made contact, the responding homeowner denied any reptiles resided in the house. However, after learning about the ongoing investigation and the consequences of non-compliance, Investigator Grady received a follow up phone call on Aug. 3, and the homeowners agreed to surrender the nine-year-old alligator, "Zachary," to DEC Investigators at SPCA headquarters in the town of Smithtown. The owners are facing administrative charges for possessing a wild animal without a permit.

small alligator in a large fish tank
Illegal alligator kept as a pet in Suffolk County

Small Plane Crash - Ulster County
On Aug. 7, ECO Grose responded to a small plane crash in downtown Ellenville. The two occupants on board were uninjured. Crews noticed gasoline leaking from the aircraft but contained it before it reached any waterways. The cause of the crash remains under investigation.

small blue and white plane under a tree line next to a road
Small plane crashes in Ulster County

blue and white plane wreckage
Pieces of small aircraft that crashed in Ellenville

Sunbaked Rattlesnake - Warren County
On Aug. 7, ECO Krug responded to Turtle Island in Lake George to remove an unwanted guest from a campsite. Using the appropriate tools, Officer Krug removed a rattlesnake sunning itself near the shoreline. Turtle Island is a popular spot for rattlesnakes from nearby Tongue Mountain. ECOs respond to similar calls to the island several times a year. Based on its painted tail, Officer Krug determined the rattlesnake had been picked up in the past. He turned the snake over to a research assistant working with a professor at Skidmore College studying the local rattlesnake population. The students collect data from the snake and then release it further away from potential human contact.

ECO holding large rattlesnake next to ECO vehicle
Officer Krug with rattlesnake

Rattlesnake Retreats to the Convent - Orange County
Recently, ECOs in Orange County responded to a call from Queen of the Apostles Convent in the town of Monroe after the resident sisters encountered a timber rattlesnake warming itself outside the main entrance of the convent. Officers responded, contained the snake in a plastic container, and relocated it to a safe area nearby. For more information on timber rattlesnakes visit DEC's website.

Rattlesnake in the grass
Timber rattlesnake safely released away from convent

Shirley Chisholm State Park Illegal Clamming - Kings County
On Aug. 7, while patrolling Spring Creek Park across from Shirley Chisholm State Park for shellfish violations, ECOs Michalet and Milliron observed two people with several buckets and bins full of various clam species and blue claw crab. The subjects possessed 48 razor clams, 693 top neck clams, and six undersized blue claw crabs. As the Officers escorted the anglers to the trailhead, they spotted another group of three individuals nearby with 85 top neck clams, 346 razor clams, seven streamers, and five undersized blue claw crabs. Each subject received tickets for taking shellfish from uncertified waters and possession of undersized blue claw crabs.

buckets and bags of illegally-caught clams
Shellfish taken illegally from uncertified shellfish lands in Jamaica bay

Snakes for Sale - Suffolk County
On Aug. 10, New Jersey State Fish and Wildlife contacted ECO DeRose about snakes from Long Island offered for sale in New Jersey. Officer DeRose notified DEC Bureau of Environmental Crimes Investigators in DEC's Region 1. New Jersey Officers arranged an undercover purchase of a yellow anaconda on Aug. 14. Investigator Grady coordinated the interstate efforts and conducted surveillance of the suspect's Suffolk County address during the sale, while ECOs Kaufherr, Della Rocco, and Captain Gadomski staged nearby for assistance. New Jersey Fish and Wildlife successfully intercepted the suspect and took possession of the anaconda and issued tickets for the unlawful possession and sale of the snake. Back in New York, the suspect agreed to turn over the remainder of his unlawful snakes to ECOs. Officers seized a four-foot Burmese python and a five-foot reticulated python. Both snakes are dangerous constrictors capable of reaching lengths of more than 16 feet and are illegal to possess in New York without a permit. The subject received a ticket for possessing a wild animal as a pet and faces administrative fines from ECOs. The snakes will be transferred to a reptile center out of state.

large snake in a bin with air holes and a cereal box
Reticulated python seized by ECOs in Suffolk County

Three ECOs hold large snake
ECO Kaufherr, Captain Gadomski, and ECO Della Rocco with seized Burmese python

Striped Bass Bust - Nassau County
On Aug. 12, ECO Kochanowski conducted a recreational fishing check of a cast netter in the town of North Hempstead. The angler reported he was throwing his cast net for bait fish to catch striped bass. Officer Kochanowski inspected the catch and realized the subject did not know the size requirements and possession regulations for striped bass. The ECO found 10 striped bass less than six inches and nine undersized blue crabs. Officer Kochanowski issued tickets for possession of undersized striped bass, possession of over-limit striped bass, and possession of undersized blue claw crab returnable to the Nassau County First District Court.

small white fish lined up with a tape measure
Very undersized striped bass

The Short Fish Cooler- Suffolk County
On Aug. 12, while patrolling the Great South Bay and Ocean off Robert Moses State Park, ECOs Perkins and Kaufherr encountered a fishing vessel and asked the boat's occupants if they had any fish on board. The anglers stated they had two legal-sized fluke and pulled the two fish out of a large cooler from the back of the boat. Officer Kaufherr boarded the vessel to get measurements of the fish and noticed another cooler in the corner of the vessel with a mix of fluke and black sea bass. The ECO measured the fish and determined all five of the fluke from the smaller cooler measured under 18.5 inches and all three of the sea bass measured under the 16-inch legal size. ECOs issued a ticket to the angler for possessing undersized fluke and possessing undersized black sea bass.

small flat fish on the deck of a boat
Undersized fluke and black sea bass pulled from boat

Buckets Full of Crabs - Suffolk County
During the early morning hours of Aug. 13, while conducting crabbing checks along the south shore of Long Island, ECO Kaufherr observed a man at Blue Point Docks scooping crabs out of the water with a net. As the angler headed to his vehicle with the crabs, ECO Kaufherr approached him and asked to check his net. The man had a bucket next to his car with the net over it. Officer Kaufherr opened the lid and found the bucket filled to the top with blue crabs. The ECO found the bucket contained a total of 131 blue crabs, 103 of which were under the 4.5-inch size limit. The Officer also found oyster toadfish under the 10-inch legal size and issued one ticket for possessing undersized blue claw crabs and one for possessing an undersized oyster toadfish. ECOs returned all fish to the water.

two large buckets filled with crabs
Buckets of crabs seized and returned to the water in Suffolk County

National Night Out - Erie/Cortland Counties
ECOs across the state participated in National Night Out events in August. In Erie County, ECOs Mathis and Damrath joined several other police and fire agencies at the event hosted by the West Seneca Police Department. In Cortland County, ECOs Burdick, Kostuk, Armstrong, and Krueger attended similar events. National Night Out is a community-building campaign that promotes police-community partnerships and neighborhood camaraderie. Attendees interact with Officers, play games, get tours and demonstrations, and eat great food. ECO Mathis was a popular attraction with an assortment of animal furs, feathers, and antlers, while ECO Damrath taught attendees the proper way to use a catch pole on nuisance animals. Meanwhile, ECO Armstrong and K9 Phoenix provided a K9 demonstration and Officer Krueger displayed his Utility Terrain Vehicle. ECOs Kostuk and Burdick manned a table where they handed out flyers, books, and stickers for children and answered questions. In addition, the village of Homer awarded ECO Armstrong with a service award for his 26 years on the job protecting New York's natural resources.

ECOs at informational table with animal pelts on it
ECOs Armstrong and Kostuk at National Night Out

ECO walking with K9 in a park
ECO Armstrong and K9 Phoenix

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