Department of Environmental Conservation

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For Release: Wednesday, April 26, 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."

Unwanted Donations - Nassau County
On March 8, ECOs Pabes and Smith concluded a four-month investigation into multiple 55-gallon drums abandoned at a Salvation Army donation site in Elmont. On the morning of Nov. 7, 2022, Officer Pabes and Nassau County Fire Marshalls responded to the location and found the drums filled with what was later determined to be home heating oil. Using surveillance footage and other evidence collected at the scene, Officers Pabes and Smith tracked down the responsible party at his home in Cambria Heights. During an interview, the subject admitted to renting a truck and leaving the drums of oil at the collection facility. The subject received a Notice of Violation for illegal disposal of solid waste and was ordered to properly dispose of the drums. He faces penalties of up to $15,000, in addition to cleanup costs.

Three plastic barrels will old oil inside them
Drums of waste oil abandoned in Nassau County

Fresh Water Fishing Derby - Suffolk County
On April 1, ECOs Dickson, DeRose, and K9 Cramer assisted DEC Region 1 Fisheries employees and New York State Parks with the freshwater fishing derby at Belmont Lake State Park. Hundreds of anglers of all ages lined the lake to try their luck in the freshly stocked waters. The ECOs patrolled the lake, assisting anglers with fish identification and baiting hooks. Despite the overcast skies and brief rain showers, participants caught fish and enjoyed the event.

Young child poses for photo with fish they caught and ECO
ECO Dickson and young angler with successful catch

ECOs, K9, and small child take a photo in front of ECO truck
ECO Dickson, ECO DeRose, and K9 Cramer with novice angler at Belmont Lake State Park

ECOs Assist with Trout Stocking - Suffolk County
In April, ECO Zullo assisted Region 1 Fisheries employees with stocking rainbow and brown trout in several lakes, ponds, and rivers throughout Suffolk County. The fish were released at these locations to improve freshwater fishing opportunities, as well as establish a population of holdover trout that can repopulate and further develop in area waters. With trout and other freshwater fishing seasons in full swing, anglers are encouraged to familiarize themselves with fishing rules and regulations before heading out on the water. Visit DEC's website for more information.

Young child and ECO release fish from a bucket into the water
Young angler helps ECO Zullo stock trout in Suffolk County

ECO releases fish from a bucket into the water
ECO Zullo stocks trout in Suffolk County

Raccoon Eviction - Erie County
On April 4, ECO Damrath responded to a complaint about an unwanted raccoon in a woman's house. When the Officer arrived at the home, he observed obvious signs, including a two-way "cat door," indicating the resident was intentionally feeding neighborhood animals in her house. Several cats and at least one raccoon were taking advantage of the food and shelter, but the raccoon refused to leave. ECO Damrath removed the raccoon from the house, advised the resident of local leash and vermin laws, and provided a warning that possessing raccoons is not just unlawful, it's also dangerous.

Raccoon on top a bookshelf in a house
Raccoon lays almost hidden atop bookshelf

Hemmed In Hawk - Nassau County
On April 5, ECOs Smith and Giarratana responded to a call for a hawk stuck in a tight space between two buildings in Westbury. The male red-tailed hawk became trapped in an area too narrow for the bird to expand its wings and escape. Without a way to reach the bird, the ECOs contacted the Westbury Fire Department for ladder assistance. After surveying the scene, firefighters forced open a sealed basement window, allowing ECO Giarratana access into an alley. The ECO was then able to capture the hawk and transfer it to a certified rehabilitator who successfully freed the bird three days later.

ECO holding small hawk in hands
ECO Giarratana and the rescued hawk

ECOs and other emergency personnel take group photo with hawk
ECO Giarratana, ECO Smith, and members of the Westbury Fire Department

Moose Recovery - Adirondacks
On April 6, ECOs Favreau and Fadden assisted DEC Wildlife employees with the extraction of a dead yearling moose from a heavily forested area in the Adirondacks. DEC had fitted the moose with a GPS collar in 2023. The collar recently gave off a signal indicating the animal was no longer alive. The Officers and Wildlife employees managed to get within 500 yards of the moose carcass by snowmobile and UTV before hiking the remaining distance through two to three feet of snow. Once they reached the moose, the group loaded the animal onto a sled and pulled it back to the snowmobiles. The recovered animal was sent to DEC's wildlife pathology laboratory in Delmar for a full necropsy.

ECOs pull dead moose on a sled through snowy woods
ECOs Favreau and Fadden recover moose

Pesticide Patrol - Suffolk County
On April 7, while on patrol in Suffolk County, ECO Zullo observed an individual using a backpack sprayer to spray unknown chemicals on a lawn in Southold. The ECO noticed the sprayer was not labeled as required by law. Upon further investigation, Officer Zullo determined the subject was operating an illegal pesticide business and possessed an unlabeled moss-killing agent and several bags of unlabeled herbicides in the bed of their truck. The Officer issued three tickets to the business owner for operating an unregistered pesticide business, possessing an unlabeled pesticide container, and failure to place warning signs before applying pesticides to a lawn. Incorrect use of pesticides can be harmful to the public health and the environment.

bags of pesicides and spreading tools
Pesticides and application equipment utilized by unregistered pesticide business

Illegal Pesticide Application Enforcement - New York City
A few weeks later, ECOs held a pesticide application enforcement initiative throughout New York City. As temperatures rise and lawn care increases, unlicensed and illegal application of pesticides become a bigger concern. Six ECOs teamed up with employees from DECs Bureau of Pesticides in search of illegal pesticide businesses and applicators. At the end of their one-day enforcement effort, ECOs noted 24 violations including unlawful pesticide applications, landscaping businesses operating without registration, failure to post warning markers to notify of treated property, no registration decals, and unmarked pesticide service containers. To learn more about pesticide laws in New York State, visit the DEC website.

ECO speaking with worker
ECO Keegan inspects unlicensed pesticide applicator in Queens County

NYPD Calls for Backup to Apprehend Striped Bass Poachers - Bronx County
On April 8, members of the New York Police Department (NYPD) training unit contacted ECO Ableson about a pair of poachers fishing on the beach behind the NYPD firing range in Rodman's Neck. The poachers were seen filling garbage bags with striped bass. Officer Ableson contacted ECOs Korey and Broughton, already deployed at the beach, and he and the NYPD Officers led the ECOs to the men concealing the fish. The two poachers, both found in possession of 13 striped bass, received tickets for possessing striped bass out of season and failure to release a catch without undue harm. These Environmental Conservation Law violations carry a fine of up to $250 and/or up to 15 days in jail per charge upon conviction.

ECOs stand with confiscated fish
ECOs Ableson, Korey, and Broughton with recovered striped bass

Little Neck Bay Bass Bust - Queens County
A few weeks later, in Queens County, ECOs Rappold and Kortz received a similar complaint about striped bass poachers catching and hiding undersized fish in high marsh grass near their fishing location. The Officers responded and watched from a distance under the cover of darkness. The ECOs later discovered eight illegal striped bass below the legal slot size of 28 inches hidden in the grass. The Officers issued 10 tickets to the group for possession of undersized striped bass and failure to possess a marine registry.

eight small fish on the sand
Illegally possessed striped bass recovered by ECOs Rappold and Kortz

ECO LaCroix and K9 Web Track and Locate Subject - Clinton County
On April 9, ECO LaCroix responded to the town of Saranac to assist New York State Police with tracking a subject experiencing a mental health issue. The individual ran into the woods and ECO LaCroix and K9 Web quickly began a track for the subject, assisted by a State Trooper. K9 Web picked up the scent and led Officer LaCroix and the Trooper about a third of a mile into the woods. The Officers then transported the subject to a facility for medical treatment.

ECO LaCroix and K9 partner Web are part of the New York State Environmental Conservation Police K9 Unit, a specialized unit trained in evidence detection, handler protection, and tracking.

K9 ECO sits next to ECO vehicle
K9 Web after successful track in Clinton County

Injured Swan Round-Up - Suffolk County
On April 10, ECO Day responded to a report of a swan with a hook in its eye and/or beak at Bartlett Pond Park in the town of Brookhaven. When Officer Day arrived at the park, two Brookhaven Public Safety Officers and a volunteer from a local wildlife rehabilitator were attempting to capture the bird with a fishing net without success. Using a pair of waders and a catchpole, ECO Day captured the swan with assistance from the Public Safety Officers and the volunteer. The Officer then safely removed a hook embedded in the swan's beak. The bird was returned to the pond with no obvious ill effects from the hook. ECO Day then removed additional hooks, bobbers, and fishing line from nearby vegetation. DEC reminds anglers to recover snagged lines and hooks when done fishing.

ECO in the water with injured swan, guiding it to shore
ECO Day corrals the injured swan (photo courtesy of Max Murphy)

Swan with large fishing lure stuck on its beak
Swan with offending crankbait

Youth Conservation Program - Suffolk County
On April 15 and 16, ECOs in DEC Region 1 assisted with a successful Youth Conservation Program that drew 30 young people between the ages of 12 and 15. The students attended the Hunter Safety Training Course and received other hunting-related lessons and practical skills over the course of the weekend. Activities included learning to use a compass, blood tracking, deer field dressing, rifle marksmanship, muzzleloading, and trap shooting. Participating DEC Division of Law Enforcement Officers included ECOs DeRose, Kaufherr, Cacciola, Michalet, DeVito, Hilton, and Vendenbos. At the end of the weekend, ECO DeRose held a Police K9 demonstration with his partner K9 Cramer. The successful program gives future outdoor adventurers an introduction to hunting.

ECO and youth participant look at a target

ECO supervises targe practice at youth conservation program

Illegal Bear Take - Dutchess County
On April 22, ECO Wamsley received a call from the Dutchess County Sheriff's Office reporting a bear shot in the town of Dover. The Sherriff's Office, which responded to the call for shots fired, witnessed a subject dragging the bear back to his home when they arrived at the location. Officer Wamsley interviewed the homeowner who claimed the bear attacked his dog, prompting him to shoot it. ECO Wamsley determined the subject's story did not match the physical evidence at the scene. Officer Wamsley concluded the subject's dog had gone after the bear and the subject followed both animals before shooting and killing the bear. The ECO issued several tickets to the homeowner including taking bear out of season, illegal take of protected wildlife, and hunting/taking a protected animal without a license. The bear was seized as evidence and donated.

Large dead bear on the back of an ECO vehicle after confiscation
ECO Wamsley with illegally taken bear

Earth Week Enforcement - Statewide
ECOs from across the state celebrated Earth Week 2023 by participating in enforcement initiatives and events focused on environmental protection and appreciation. From truck details to community cleanups, Officers were at work statewide.

2023 Earth Week Enforcement Detail - Columbia, Orange, and Oswego Counties
ECOs conducted several commercial vehicle enforcement details checking emissions coming from Heavy Duty Diesel Vehicles traveling New York roadways. In Columbia County, ECOs joined forces with the City of Hudson Police Department on a truck detail targeting two areas in and around the city that are environmental justice communities disproportionately burdened by pollution. Officers from both police departments issued nine tickets for violations including a heavy-duty vehicle exhaust leak, transporting solid waste uncovered, unregistered trailer, uninspected motor vehicle, and uninspected trailer. ECOs in Delaware County teamed up with the New York State Department of Transportation to issue tickets for 32 violations and put four vehicles out of service.

Similar enforcement details in Orange and Oswego counties also focused on environmental justice communities and resulted in a combined 50 tickets written for violations related to air quality offenses. In Oswego County, Officers set up a check point and stopped nearly 500 trucks. In both counties, ECOs ticketed drivers with trucks left idling for more than five minutes, emitting smoke with an opacity that exceeds standards, and not having up-to-date emissions inspections.

ECOs routinely conduct commercial vehicle enforcement details year-round.

ECO next to dump truck during emissions testing
Region 4 ECO conducts emissions testing on heavy-duty diesel vehicle

ECO vehicle and dump truck during emissions testing
Delaware County truck details

ECO vehicles in front of large tractor trailers during emissions testing
Earth Day detail at truck stop in Orange County

ECOs inspecting pick-up truck with large pile of garbage and debris in it
Region 7 ECOs check trucks hauling solid waste in Oswego County

Community Cleanup with a Conservation Officer - Washington County
ECOs rolled up their sleeves during Earth Week and joined other DEC personnel and volunteers to clean up trash across New York State. ECOs Thibodeau, Krug, Dewey, and Lt. Gonyeau joined youth and the Washington County Youth Bureau to clean up popular fishing areas along the Champlain and Old Barge canals. The first location was in desperate need of cleaning with 10 bags of trash and 17 tires removed. The ECOs and young people worked hard to clean the littered areas and then enjoyed pizza to end the day. In total, 30 bags of trash, 39 tires, several sinks and toilets, TVs and computer monitors, and a variety of other large items were collected from the two-mile section of canal and transported for proper disposal.

ECOs and volunteers picking up trash alongside canal
ECOs and young Earth Day volunteers removing litter in Washington County

ECOs and volunteers pose for group photo after trash pick-up
ECOs and the Washington County Youth Bureau with the litter collected

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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