Department of Environmental Conservation

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For Release: Wednesday, December 7, 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."

Spotlight on Enforcement - DEC Regions 8 And 9

On the night of Oct. 28, ECOs organized a spotlighting enforcement detail to combat poaching activities in DEC Regions 8 and 9. During the detail in the lower Finger Lakes region and Southern Tier, Officers watched for vehicles operating spotlights for poaching. One of the more notable violations that night involved a white pickup truck repeatedly spotlighting fields in the southwest corner of Steuben County. ECOs activated their emergency lights and attempted to initiate a traffic stop, but the subject drove away at a high rate of speed, discarding a loaded rifle and spotlight out the window of the vehicle. In their attempt to further evade the ECO, the driver pulled into a dirt path a short distance into Pennsylvania and fled on foot.

With assistance from Pennsylvania State Police, Pennsylvania Game Wardens, and a DEC Division of Law Enforcement (DLE) K9 unit, Officers recovered all evidence and successfully took two subjects into custody, including a convicted felon. The subjects received tickets for multiple Penal Law and Environmental Conservation Law misdemeanors and were released pending a future court appearance. Over the course of the detail, Officers issued tickets for a variety of charges ranging from possession of a loaded firearm in a motor vehicle to possession of an unsecured firearm while operating a spotlight and unlawfully fleeing an Officer.

K9 ECO and discarded gun in a field
DEC DLE K9 with evidence recovered at the scene

Ignorance Is No Defense - Oswego County

On Oct. 28, ECO Grogan received a call from a hunter in the Southern Zone who witnessed a six-point buck run across the road in the town of Richland and heard a gunshot ring out minutes later in an area where the regular firearms deer season had not yet opened. Officer Grogan began canvassing the area and observed several hunters standing around an ATV in an open garage. The ECO asked the men if they had heard any gunshots and one admitted to doing some target practice nearby. However, as Officer Grogan walked by the ATV he saw fresh blood on the back of the vehicle and noticed it was still warm. He asked about the blood and the hunter who claimed to have been target shooting admitted to shooting the deer behind a house with a muzzleloader. Officer Grogan confiscated the deer meat and ticketed the man for the illegal take of deer, hunting without a license, and discharging a firearm within 500 feet of a dwelling. The hunter, who is from Staten Island, claimed he didn't realize there were "rules up here."

Back Deck Buck - Erie County

On Nov. 14, ECO Damrath received a complaint about a subject hunting deer over bait. The complainant said she watched her neighbor place pumpkins in the backyard and then shoot the attracted deer with a crossbow from his upstairs deck while the deer fed on the pumpkins. Officer Damrath interviewed the subject, who readily admitted to shooting the buck over bait but claimed he was unaware that placing pumpkins for deer to eat would be considered baiting. ECO Damrath ticketed the hunter for illegally taking deer and discharging a crossbow within 250 feet of a structure, among other charges. The Officer donated the deer to the Venison Donation Coalition to help feed people in Erie County.

broken-up pumpkin on the ground
Pumpkins used to bait deer in Erie County backyard

Mad for Shad - Nassau County

On Nov. 14, while on foot patrol at West End Beach at Jones Beach State Park, ECO Pabes noticed an angler packing up fishing gear to leave. The angler left his bucket on the beach and walked back to the parking lot, suspiciously checking his surroundings, including which cars were in the lot. When the fisherman failed to see an ECO vehicle, he returned to the bucket and carried it back to the parking lot. ECO Pabes intercepted the angler and inspected the bucket, which held 27 hickory shad, a saltwater fish with a limit of five per day. Officer Pabes ticketed the angler for possessing over the limit of fish and fishing without a Marine registry, returnable to Nassau County First District Court. The ECO also seized the fish and donated them to a wildlife rehabilitator.

large number of dead fish on the back of a truck
ECO Pabes seized 27 hickory shad in Nassau County

Cattail Eradication Gone Wrong - Montgomery County

On Nov. 17, a town of Glen man paid a penalty in court for the illegal disposal of petroleum. On Oct. 26, ECO Willson received a complaint about a petroleum smell and possible oil spill coming from a property off State Highway 30A. After arriving at the location, Officer Willson observed and photographed a burn patch along the edge of a pond and the remains of cattail plants. After speaking with nearby residents, one subject admitted to spraying several gallons of fuel oil into the pond and lighting it on fire to eradicate the cattails. ECO Willson advised that burning cattails would not eliminate them from the pond and the petroleum would require a response from the DEC Spill Response team for investigation. The subject was issued two tickets for illegal disposal of petroleum and failure to report a petroleum spill. The subject appeared in Glen Town Court, pleaded guilty to one count of illegal disposal of petroleum, and accepted a fine of $500 with a $75 surcharge.

Reedy, wet, area that was contaminated with petroleum
Petroleum contamination in Montgomery County

K9 Sniffs Out Black Bear - Seneca County

On Nov. 18, while working a spotlight detail in the Montezuma National Wildlife Refuge, ECO Godson and Federal Wildlife Officer Wolabaugh received a report that a K9 trained in wildlife recovery had tracked a bear shot earlier in the day. After an investigation, the Officers responded to a home address for the hunter and conducted an interview during which the subject admitted to shooting the bear with a compound bow. The subject also failed to turn in a harvest report card indicating he had taken the bear. Further inspection of the subject's property found a spike-horn buck, which the hunter said he took in the Northern Zone during the big game season. The subject provided the Officers with a completed doe tag for the buck instead of the correct antlered deer tag required in New York. He has pending tickets in New York for improperly tagging an antlered deer and received citations to appear in federal court for the illegal harvest of a black bear on a national wildlife refuge. The bear, which refuge biologists say is likely the first confirmed black bear sighting on refuge property, is being donated to the Montezuma National Wildlife Refuge Visitors Center.

ECO and Federal Officer pose for photo with confiscated dead bear
ECO Godson and Federal Officer Wolabaugh with illegally taken black bear

A Bit Too Early - Wayne County

On Nov. 18, one day before the regular firearms season in the Southern Zone, ECOs received a call from Wayne County 911 reporting an individual who may have shot a deer with a rifle. ECO McCabe and Lieutenant Thomas responded to the subject's residence and found a sheriff's deputy and Macedon Police Officer already on scene. The subject admitted that because he would not be able to partake in opening weekend of the season, he shot a deer with his rifle. Other hunters in the area heard the shot and saw the deer run and fall. Charges are pending for out-of-season hunting and the illegal take of whitetail deer. Officers donated the buck to a local church.

ECO holding deceased buck by antlers next to ECO truck
ECO McCabe with buck shot with a rifle before gun season

Buck Congratulations Gets Busted - Wayne County

On the morning of Nov. 19, opening day of the Southern Zone big game firearms season, a hunter in Wayne County took two deer within 30 minutes of each other. The hunter's wife posted a big congratulations to her husband on social media about the successful morning hunt, complete with a picture of the hunter holding two bucks. However, New York hunters have only one tag for antlered deer during the gun season. ECO McCabe and Lieutenant Thomas spoke to the hunter who admitted to the crime. Officers donated meat from the second illegally taken deer to a local church. The hunter is under consideration for an administrative settlement as charges are pending.

evening photo of ECO holding deceased buck by antlers in back of a pickup truck
ECO McCabe with illegal second buck

No Points for Poaching - Oneida County

On Nov. 20, ECO Hull received an anonymous tip about a subject taking two bucks in the first two days of the Southern Zone regular big game season in Utica. The complainant provided pictures of a six-point buck taken on Nov. 19, and a 10-point buck taken the next morning. With just a first name and the pictures to start the investigation, Officer Hull made several phone calls until he found a last name, address, and phone number for the subject. The subject, who initially denied shooting the 10-point buck, eventually admitted to shooting it, driving it home, and hiding it in a back shed. Officer Hull seized the deer and ticketed the hunter for illegally taking wildlife, taking over the limit of deer, and illegal possession of wildlife. A local food pantry accepted the meat from the deer as a donation.

ECO holds deceased buck by antlers in back of pickup truck
ECO Hull with illegal Oneida County deer

Grandpa's Deer? - Erie County

On Nov. 20, while on patrol, ECO Damrath observed a pickup truck with several deer legs sticking out of the truck bed. The driver sped away when the two made eye contact, but Officer Damrath eventually caught up to the truck and pulled it over. When asked about the buck and doe in the truck, the driver said he shot the doe, his 82-year-old grandfather had shot the buck, and he was taking both to the processor. The hunter could not produce a consignment slip signed by his grandfather giving him permission to transport the buck, but it appeared the grandfather had signed his tag. The subject's story fell apart when ECO Damrath learned the grandfather died seven years ago and the grandson was using his lifetime license tags. Officer Damrath charged the hunter with several violations and seized the deer until he produced his own valid buck tag the next day.

Deer Check Point - Ontario County

ECOs in DEC's Region 8, with assistance from New York State Police, held a deer check point in Ontario County on cold blustery opening Sunday of the Southern Zone deer season. The Officers checked nearly 30 vehicles and more than 35 deer with DEC biologists on hand to help determine the age of the deer and record tag information. Hunters, mostly happy to see ECOs out protecting their cherished pastime, shared stories of their time in the woods. Officers issued one tagging violation during the check, but most hunters went home happy to show their trophies.

DEC Staff inspect deer for hunters at check station
ECOs, biologists, and hunters at DEC Region 8 check station

Sodium Hydroxide Spill - Suffolk County

On the morning of Nov. 23, ECO Pabes and members of DEC's Spills Response team responded to a sodium hydroxide spill from a food and beverage company in Copiague. Approximately 200 gallons of the chemical leaked onto the street and soil and entered a nearby stormwater drain. A nearby resident reported the spill to Suffolk County Fire Marshalls, who secured the area and contained the spill, which had leaked slowly from a storage tank overnight. Officer Pabes interviewed the owner of the company who admitted to improperly repairing the tank the previous day. ECO Pabes issued the subject a Notice of Violation for polluting the roadway and water. Spill Responder Kelsey arrived on scene, neutralized the sodium hydroxide with diluting agents (vinegar and citric acid), and oversaw the cleanup to ensure protection of public health and the environment.

fenced-in site of spill
Sodium hydroxide spill site in Suffolk County

To contact an ECO to report an environmental crime or to report an incident, call 1-844-DEC-ECOS for 24-hour dispatch or email (for non-urgent violations).

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