Department of Environmental Conservation

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For Release: Thursday, February 2, 2023

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 2022, Environmental Conservation Police Officers (ECOs) and Investigators across the state responded to more than 25,600 calls and worked on cases that resulted in nearly 13,800 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 work hard each day to serve their communities, protect our precious natural resources, and safeguard public health, while ensuring those who break the state's stringent Environmental Conservation Laws are held accountable," DEC Commissioner Basil Seggos said. "In partnership with local, state, and federal law enforcement, DEC looks forward to continuing to support the work our ECOs perform in every corner of New York." 

Mini-Excavator Causes Petroleum Spill - Chemung County
On Dec. 30, ECO Lifrieri and New York State Trooper Wallner visited a site in the town of Veteran to follow up on the investigation of arson and water quality/stream protection violations. The home on the property was condemned due to a gas leak caused after a resident allegedly set fire to his own ATV and a relative's nearby property. The relative declined to press charges but ECO Lifrieri charged the subject with two water quality violations, including failure to report a petroleum spill within two hours. The subject had driven a mini excavator into a culvert and got it stuck, causing a discharge of hydraulic fluid into a nearby waterway. DEC Spill Responders oversaw a cleanup of the site and closed the spill case. All charges will be heard in the Town of Veteran Court.

Extra Shotgun Rounds with Excess Brant - Nassau County
On Jan. 2, while patrolling Meadow Island on foot, ECOs Giarratana and Pabes encountered a group of waterfowl hunters loading supplies onto their duck boat. The ECOs approached the group and noticed the hunters had over the daily limit of Atlantic brant. One of the hunters also possessed a shotgun capable of holding more than three rounds, unlawful for hunting waterfowl. Officers ticketed the hunter for the unplugged shotgun and excess Atlantic brant, returnable to Nassau County First District Court. The ECOs also seized the birds as evidence.

Dead black and white birds lined up on the sand
Atlantic Brant seized during hunting patrol in Nassau County

Bald Eagle Rescue - Dutchess County
On Jan. 6, ECO Franz received a call reporting an injured bald eagle in the woods next to a stream in the town of Amenia. Officer Franz arrived at the location and discovered the bald eagle was unable to fly. The ECO climbed down the stream bed and used a towel to safely subdue the bird. Once secured, ECO Franz transferred the eagle to a wildlife rehabilitation center, which determined it was suffering from lead poisoning. A fragment of lead the size of a grain of rice is lethal to eagles and even small exposure can cause severe neurological problems. The injured eagle received one round of therapy at the wildlife rehab center and is responding well. Lead exposures are often the result of lead ammunition fragments and lead fishing tackle left behind by hunters and anglers in the field.

Flashlight beam shines on injured bald eagle with its wings spread
Injured bald eagle spotted from the roadway near a stream in Amenia, Dutchess County

ECO holds large, injured bald eagle
ECO Franz rescues sick bald eagle

Opossum Rescue - Queens County
On Jan. 10, ECOs Ableson, Traynor, and Investigator Harvey responded to a housing development in Astoria after reports of an opossum inside the building. Officer Ableson found the young opossum taking shelter in a basement stairwell, safely recovered it, and transported the animal to a nearby wildlife refuge.

ECO holding small opossum
ECO Ableson with rescued opossum

K9 Benny Cracks the Case - St. Lawrence County
On Jan. 14, ECO Canary received an anonymous tip about an individual who had taken a deer out of season. The complainant suggested the hunter, known to ECOs from previous complaints of deer jacking at night, killed the deer at his mother's house in the city of Ogdensburg. Using satellite imagery, Officer Canary identified a patch of woods behind the residence in question and headed to the location on foot. The ECO found blood stains and a gut pile in a wooded area nearby, but freshly fallen snow made finding additional evidence difficult. In response, ECO Canary contacted K9 handler ECO Schneller and K9 Benny to assist. K9 Benny found further evidence, including deer blood in and around a garage. Presented with this evidence, the subject admitted to killing a deer out of season using a bow. Officers confiscated the deer and charged the hunter with hunting deer during a closed season and killing a deer except as permitted, both misdemeanors. The subject also received a violation for unlawfully possessing wildlife.

K9 ECO sitting in garage on site of illegally hunted deer
K9 Benny leads ECOs to garage linked to unlawful deer take in St. Lawrence County

Two ECOs and K9 ECOs next to bags of frozen deer meat
ECOs Canary, Schneller, and K9 Benny at crime scene

ATV Leads the Way - Yates County
In Yates County, a hunter recently paid a penalty for illegally taking a deer in November 2022. Last year on Nov. 12, ECO Gross was patrolling in the town of Italy when the Officer observed a young man operating an ATV without a helmet. Officer Gross stopped the ATV rider and escorted him back to his camp to speak with his parents about the unregistered ATV and the rider not wearing a helmet. Upon entering the camp driveway, ECO Gross observed a small shed with multiple bags of corn and sweet feed inside, as well as a dead 10-point buck in the back of a pickup truck. The hunter who had harvested the deer emerged from the cabin with his deer tag in a bag to show the Officer. After a brief interview, the hunter led ECO Gross to an elevated box blind where he had harvested the deer. About 30 yards from the blind, Officer Gross spotted a large pile of corn, sweet feed, and pumpkins. The hunter admitted to placing the bait at the location and agreed to an administrative penalty of $600 in satisfaction of the charges of illegally harvesting a whitetail deer, intentionally feeding deer, hunting with the aid of pre-established bait pile, failing to attach a carcass tag, and hunting with a crossbow less than 17 inches wide. ECO Gross seized the deer and donated the meat.

ECO holds head up of large, antlered deer
ECO Gross with unlawfully harvested deer in Yates County

Trash Burning Scofflaw Pays Fine - Montgomery County
In Montgomery County, a subject charged with the illegal disposal and burning of solid waste in 2021, recently paid a penalty for his crimes. On Oct. 1, 2021, ECO Willson observed an unattended fire burning with waste material from a commercial scrapping business. The scrapping business operated behind a residential home off Hickory Road in the town of Mohawk. Working with the town's Codes Officer and after speaking with neighbors, Officer Willson ticketed the resident and business owner for an unattended open fire, illegal disposal of solid waste, and maintaining a noisome and unwholesome business on or near a highway. Over the next year, the defendant refused to address the charges and failed to appear in Mohawk Town Court on the appointed date. The court issued a bench warrant for the defendant, forcing him to address the charges. More than a year later, the subject accepted a plea offer to one count of illegal disposal of solid waste and agreed to pay a fine of $1,590. The commercial property has since been remediated and is no longer used for commercial operations. Burning trash is illegal statewide in all cases.

Aerial view of house with scrap metal and materials in the back yard
Overhead view of unlawful Mohawk scrapping operation

Buffalo Blizzard Recognition - Erie County
On Jan. 21, Governor Kathy Hochul held a recognition event honoring individuals who went above and beyond in helping residents during the blizzard that hit Western New York in December. Officers in DEC's Division of Law Enforcement (DLE) joined emergency personnel from the region during the height of the storm to save lives and protect property throughout the holiday weekend. DLE members attending due to their integral roles in storm operations included Director Przyklek, Lieutenant Ward, Lieutenant Bobseine, and ECOs Holzle and Damrath.

Group photo of ECOs and the Mayor of Buffalo
From Left: ECOs Holzle, Lt. Ward, Buffalo Mayor Byron Brown, Director Przyklek, and ECO Damrath

Chumming With Your Chums - Oswego County
On Jan 23, ECO Brown received a complaint alleging an angler actively chumming for steelhead on the Salmon River. Chumming, defined as "depositing fish eggs that are not attached to hooks into New York waters," is an illegal fishing method used by some anglers to attract fish by dumping bait. The complainant said the boat operator was chumming every fishing hole he passed. ECO Brown responded to the area along with a local U.S. Border Patrol agent to investigate. The Officers observed the operator of the boat and two other anglers on board chum the water with salmon eggs. After witnessing the same activity at other fishing holes along the river, the Officers headed to the boat launch and waited for the boat to dock. When it did, ECO Brown ticketed the operator for two counts of taking or attempting to take fish by chumming, returnable to the Town of Albion Court.

small boat with two people on it
Suspected chumming vessel on the Salmon River

Injured Cooper's Hawk Rescue - Erie County
On Jan. 23, ECO Mathis received a phone call from a citizen who struck a hawk with their vehicle. The hawk, still standing in the roadway after being hit, was unable to fly. Officer Mathis responded, safely captured the injured hawk, and transported the bird to the Erie County SPCA for treatment. Staff at the animal hospital determined the hawk sustained minor injuries but kept it overnight for observation. The following morning, ECOs Mathis and Powers released the hawk to a wooded area near where it was discovered.

ECO releasing hawk in small field
Cooper's hawk released back to the wild in Erie County

Not Your Car - Steuben County
On Jan. 24, ECO Farrand initiated a traffic stop on a vehicle for running a stop sign and exceeding the posted speed limit on County Road 12 in the town of Thurston. While speaking with the driver, ECO Farrand determined he was driving with a suspended license and learned from Steuben County Dispatch that the vehicle was reported stolen minutes earlier. With assistance from a Steuben County Deputy, Officer Farrand took the driver into custody. The driver admitted to stealing the car when questioned and ECO Farrand ticketed the driver for the vehicle and traffic infractions. The case was turned over to the Steuben County Sheriff's Office for processing on the felony grand larceny charge. Officers released the car to its happy owner after completing the investigation.

Grey vehicle with two emergency vehicles behind it with their lights on
Stolen car discovered during traffic stop in Steuben 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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