Department of Environmental Conservation

D E C banner

For Release: Thursday, June 22, 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."

It Wasn't Me - Suffolk County

On May 1, Suffolk County opened its first-ever spring turkey hunting season. A few days later on May 3, ECOs received a report of a gunshot behind a residence. Officer Kaufherr and Lieutenant Amato responded to the location and interviewed the property owner who advised they had heard a gun fired behind his house but denied being the shooter. Officers interviewed neighbors, but the investigation led back to the original location and the property owner. During a second interview with the subject, ECOs mentioned that a Division of Law Enforcement (DLE) K9 was on the way to assist with locating evidence of unlawful activity. Minutes later, the subject admitted to shooting the turkey from his deck and hiding it in a storage bin. Shortly after arriving, K9 Cramer located the discharged shell casing, confirming the location where the gun was fired was well within 500 feet of neighboring dwellings. Officers charged the shooter with criminal possession of a firearm, discharging a firearm within 500 feet of a dwelling, possessing a rifle afield while hunting, illegal take of wildlife, and hunting without a license. Charges are pending in Suffolk County First District Court.

ECOs in front of ECO vehicle with large turkey and illegal gun
ECO Kaufherr, Lt. Amato, ECO DeRose, and K9 Cramer with illegal rifle and illegally taken turkey in Suffolk County

Sale Intercepted - Sullivan County

On May 11, Investigator Bastedo located an online ad offering a five-and-a-half-foot Asian water monitor lizard for sale. The seller, who initially listed the unusual animal for $1,400, stated he would negotiate down to $1,000. Investigator Bastedo reached out to the seller via email, posing as an interested purchaser, and made plans to meet the seller in Sullivan County on May 16. On that date, Investigators Bastedo and Conway met with the seller while ECO Doroski waited nearby. After taking the animal into their possession, the Officers identified themselves and issued an appearance ticket to the seller for illegally selling a wild animal as a pet, a misdemeanor due to the purchase price. The Asian water monitor was taken to a reptile facility with the required licenses for such an animal.

In New York State, DEC requires a Dangerous Animal License to keep Asian water monitors along with several other species of animals. The license is only issued for scientific, educational, exhibition, zoological, or propagation purposes, not for keeping these animals as pets. Furthermore, there are several requirements for obtaining the license such as proper facilities and caging, insurance coverage, marking or tagging the animal so that it can be uniquely identified, and other criteria. This licensing process helps ensure dangerous animals will not cause a threat to public health and safety, or to indigenous fish and wildlife populations.

Large lizard wearing a harness in blue storage container
Asian water monitor lizard seized in Sullivan County

Commercial Vehicle Enforcement Detail - Westchester County

On May 23, ECOs Swansen and Franz, with the assistance of DEC Bureau of Pesticides staff, conducted a Commercial Vehicle Enforcement Detail with the Lewisboro Police Department and New York State Police Commercial Vehicle Officers. The Officers checked numerous commercial vehicles for air quality, solid waste, and pesticide violations. ECOs issued seven tickets, including failure to display decals on two sides of equipment, unlabeled pesticide service container, operating an unregistered pesticide business, unlicensed pesticide applicator, possessing restricted use pesticide, solid waste transporter permit violations, and expired emissions inspection.

ECO holds pesticide jug while checking labels
ECO Franz checks label on pesticide container

ECO steps up on truck step to talk through window to the driver
ECOs Swansen and a Lewisboro Police Officer check truck compliance during a commercial vehicle enforcement detail in Westchester County

Captured by the K9 - Sullivan County

On May 24, ECO Walraven received a call from the Hurleyville Fire Department in the town of Fallsburg reporting an unlawful open burn of solid waste. The fire unit dispatched to the location reported that workers on site tending to the fire ran off into nearby woods when the unit arrived to extinguish the flames. Officer Walraven observed the large burn pile consisting of a mattress, box spring, construction and demolition (C&D) debris, and plastic. The fire had expanded beyond the waste pile and engulfed a beaver lodge. ECO Walraven contacted ECO Wood and asked that he bring K9 partner CJ to the location to assist in locating the subjects. Officer Wood responded and successfully deployed K9 CJ to run a track to a nearby residence. Officers determined the caretaker of the property, who lives at the residence, was responsible for the fire. The Officers ticketed the man for the unlawful open burn of solid waste, unlawful disposal of solid waste, and unlawfully disturbing a beaver house. The tickets are returnable to the Town of Fallsburg Court in July.

Pile of charred debris
Pile of unlawfully burned solid waste in Fallsburg

Antique Bust - Dutchess County

On May 27, while attending 'Barn Star's Antiques at Rhinebeck,' a semi-annual antique show held at the Dutchess County Fairgrounds, Investigators Conway and Bastedo discovered numerous items made from parts of endangered animals that are illegal to sell in New York State. The Officers called in ECOs Johnson and Swansen to assist and seized dozens of items made from endangered sea turtles and elephant ivory, valued at more than $100,000, from seven different vendors. In total, ECOs issued five Notices of Violation and two tickets to the companies and individuals selling the items.

Various antiques made from endangered animals
Endangered species items seized from antiques show

antique items made from endangered species on a table
Items made from elephant ivory and other endangered animals seized from antiques show

Motorcycle Crash - Hamilton County

On May 29, ECO Newell and Trooper Nauroth responded to reports of a motorcycle accident south of Speculator. The Officers found the victim had incurred severe trauma to one of her legs, including lacerations and compound fractures. Officers Newell and Nauroth administered first aid while coordinating with Hamilton County Sheriff's Office Dispatch for EMS response and LifeNet Helicopter services. Wells EMS and ambulance service, GAVAC, arrived on scene and transported the subject to Speculator. DEC Forest Ranger Snye, along with the Speculator Fire Department and Hamilton County Deputies, created a landing zone for the LifeNet helicopter while also assisting with a brush fire that began across the street from the landing zone. The coordination between agencies led to expedient medical care and transportation of the subject from Speculator to Albany Medical Center.

emergency vehicles at scene of crash
Serious motorcycle accident leads to multi-agency response in Hamilton County

The Murph Challenge - Orleans County

On Memorial Day, May 29, ECOs Laczi, Fonda, and Dobies participated for the sixth year in the 'Murph Challenge' in Lyndonville. The Officers completed a one-mile run, 100 pull-ups, 200 push-ups, 300 air squats, and another mile run for time, all while wearing body armor. The event is held in memory of Lieutenant Michael P. Murphy, a U.S. Navy Seal killed in combat in 2005.

ECOs under pop-up tent during event
L to R: Austin Fonda, ECO Dobies, ECO Fonda, State Police Investigator Belson, and ECO Laczi

Eagle Rescue - Suffolk County

On May 31, ECOs Zullo and Vandenbos responded to a report of an injured eagle in the hamlet of Calverton. When the Officers arrived at the location, they observed a juvenile bald eagle standing on the front lawn of a residence. The eagle, unable to fly, did not appear to have any obvious injuries. ECO Zullo secured the bird and transported it to a rehabilitator in the town of Brookhaven for care until it is healthy enough to be released back into the wild. The recovery of bald eagle populations is one of the state's most successful conservation stories. Thanks to efforts by state and federal agencies, eagles are becoming more abundant in areas where the birds were once scarce, such as Long Island.

ECO holding young eagle in blanket
ECO Zullo with injured juvenile bald eagle found in Suffolk County

Intentional Dumping at a Deceased Person's Property - Montgomery County

In May, ECOs in Montgomery County closed an ongoing waste disposal case in the town of Charleston that resulted in the responsible party paying a penalty. On Nov. 1, 2022, at the request of the Montgomery County Sheriff's Office, ECO Willson began an investigation into the illegal dumping of garbage off Route 30A onto the private property of a recently deceased resident. Several bags of garbage, old tarps, plastic storage containers, and a refrigerator were dumped at the site. The bags of garbage contained information leading back to a Schoharie County resident living off Route 30A in the town of Esperance. ECOs interviewed the subject who confessed to dumping the garbage onto the property knowing the property owner had passed away. Officers ticketed the man for illegal disposal of solid waste. He was given the opportunity to clean up the waste in exchange for leniency from the court, but failed to comply. After six months of courtroom procedures, the defendant accepted a plea agreement and entered a plea of guilty to 1 count of illegal disposal of solid waste, a violation, with a total fine of $1,590.

Pile of trash and debris in the bushes
Unlawful solid waste dumped on property in Montgomery County

Airborne Vehicle - Suffolk County

On June 4, ECO DeRose responded to a report of a vehicle in a pond in the town of Smithtown. Officer DeRose arrived at the location and observed the car in a gully, resting in about two feet of water. The ECO learned the elderly man behind the wheel of the vehicle had already been taken to the hospital. After reviewing security video and collecting evidence at the scene, Officers determined the driver, apparently disoriented, backed down his driveway and into a utility pole before accelerating at a high rate of speed, hitting a curb, and sending the car airborne, landing in the gully. ECO DeRose determined there was no discharge of the vehicle's fluids and no threat to public health or the environment.

wrecked white car partially submerged in water in a swampy area
Vehicle at rest in pond in Suffolk County

All Net - Suffolk County

On June 5, while patrolling in the town of Southold, ECO Zullo received a call from the Riverhead Police Department reporting a woodchuck stuck in netting. Officer Zullo arrived at the location and observed the woodchuck wrapped up in sports netting and exhausted from trying to free itself. The ECO received permission from the property owner to cut the netting carefully around the woodchuck to set the animal free. Officer Zullo then watched the woodchuck run back to its parent waiting under a shed nearby.

ECO untangling small woodchuck from a net in a yard
ECO Zullo freeing a woodchuck stuck in a sports net in Suffolk County

ECO looks on as freed groundhog recovers from being tangled in a sports net
ECO Zullo sets woodchuck free in Suffolk County

Live Rattlesnake Handling - Warren County

On June 5, ECOs, DEC Forest Rangers, and other agency employees took part in a live rattlesnake handling training in Bolton Landing. Research Biologist Brown and Research Associate Simon provided background and biology of the timber rattlesnake, a threatened species in New York State. Brown and Simon presented the group with a live rattlesnake and demonstrated proper techniques to handle and capture it. Participants were then provided the opportunity to handle the rattlesnake. As ECO Dewey was leaving the training, he coincidentally received a call from DEC Dispatch requesting Officer response to a nuisance timber rattlesnake in the town of Hague. The Officer arrived on scene and, utilizing skills from the training, successfully captured the snake. The snake was released back into its natural habitat later that day.

ECOs, Forest Rangers, and others watch as ECO handles rattlesnake
ECO Leubner handling a rattlesnake during training exercise in Bolton Landing

ECO with large rattlesnake that he captured in a yard
ECO Dewey successfully captures timber rattlesnake hours after snake-handling training

Midnight at the Inlet - Suffolk County

On June 6, while on patrol in Hampton Bays, ECOs Vandenbos and Zullo received a complaint from an angler who reported seeing a large group of people at the east side of Shinnecock Inlet catching oversized striped bass and hiding the fish in their vehicles. Officers Vandenbos and Zullo contacted ECO Michalet for assistance before responding to the location to investigate. On site, the ECOs observed anglers with headlamps fishing on the end of the jetty before returning to their vehicles. The Officers checked the anglers' catches and found three striped bass over the legal slot size limit of 28-35 inches. The ECOs issued several tickets for possession of oversized striped bass and failure to carry a New York State Recreational Marine Fishing Registry, returnable to Southampton Town Justice Court. Slot size limits are in place for striped bass to protect the spawning population stock of this coastwide cooperatively managed species.

DEC announced the adoption of new regulations in the State's marine waters for recreational Atlantic striped bass fishing on June 20, 2023. The new recreational slot limit is set at 28-31 inches as required by the Atlantic States Marine Fisheries Commission to reduce recreational harvest. The new slot limit is intended to protect a large proportion of adult striped bass to allow these fish to contribute to future spawning and stock rebuilding. The recreational slot limit in the Hudson River north of the George Washington Bridge remains 18-28 inches.

ECOs hold three large, illegally caught fish
ECOs Zullo and Vandenbos with oversized striped bass in Suffolk County

Duckling Disasters Diverted - Putnam and Westchester Counties

On June 6, ECO Franz received a call reporting six ducklings stranded inside a storm drain in the town of Carmel, Putnam County. The ducklings' parent was unable to reach them. Officer Franz arrived at the location and immediately heard the ducks inside the drain. With some elbow grease and determination, the ECO dislodged the grate and safely removed the ducklings. Soon after, another duck debacle took place in New Rochelle, where a mother and her ducklings were stranded on the roof of a seven-story apartment building. ECO Franz responded, patrolled the area, and gathered the birds in a tote. He then carefully transported them to a pond across the street from the apartment building and released the ducks.

ECO carefullly picks up small duckings from storm drain
ECO Franz frees ducklings from storm drain in Putnam County

ECO stands next to pond after releasing ducklings
ECO Franz releasing mother and ducklings in New Rochelle, Westchester County

Leaving Them Out to Dry - Rockland County

On June 7, 2023, ECOs in Rockland County inspected a dry-cleaning facility alleged to be improperly storing Perchloroethylene (PERC) and operating without proper safety precautions. During the inspection, ECOs observed several violations of air quality regulations including the illegal storage of a waste chemical, failure to have a functioning vapor barrier around the PERC machine, no leak detection device, and additional violations of reporting and testing requirements. ECOs issued six tickets to the owner of the facility for the violations.

open white containers holding dry cleaning chemicals
Open PERC containers at dry cleaning facility in Rockland County

open door of mechanical room at dry cleaners where vapors can escape
Vapor barrier left open while PERC machine was in operation at dry cleaning facility in Rockland County

Who Let the Owl In - Suffolk County

On June 7, ECO McGhee heard a call over his radio regarding an owl stuck in a pool house in East Quogue. The Officer arrived at the scene and observed a small owl on the floor of the pool house. The ECO determined the owl likely got in through the ductwork of the ventilation system. Officer McGhee safely removed the screech owl from the pool house and relocated it outside to a nearby wood pile where it soon flew off on its own.

small owl on a tile floor inside a pool room
Juvenile screech owl on the floor of a pool house

ECO wearing gloves holding small owl
ECO McGhee with rescued screech owl

ECOs Visit Third Graders - Niagara County

On June 8, ECO Scheer and Lieutenant VerHague met with third graders at the Newfane Elementary School. The students, many of whom had never heard of an Environmental Conservation Police Officer, learned a great deal about the job and the satisfaction ECOs get from protecting the environment. The Officers also gave the students practical tips on what they can do to conserve natural resources, as well as the importance of protecting our air, land, and water from pollution and overuse.

ECO speaks to group of elementary schoolers in a gymnasium
Lt. VerHague explains the importance of conservation to third grade students from Newfane Elementary School in Niagara County

Boat Burn Leads to Charges - Chautauqua County

On June 9, ECO Freeman received a call from the Frewsburg Fire Chief reporting a large fire in the town of Carroll. Area residents thought a house was on fire and reported a plume of black smoke in the air. However, when fire crews arrived at the location, they observed a boat and a large amount of trash engulfed in flames with two individuals observing the fire. One of the men, the owner of the property, told the Chief that his boat wasn't fit for use, so he hauled it from Pennsylvania to his property in New York and decided to get rid of it by setting it on fire. Fire crews extinguished the flames and sent photos of the blaze to ECO Freeman. The Officer interviewed the person responsible for the fire. ECO Freeman explained New York's open burning regulations and issued the responsible party a ticket for the illegal open burn.

small boat and pile of trash on fire in a field
Vessel on fire in Chautauqua County

ECO Hopefuls Test Physical Fitness

Recently, eligible individuals interested in becoming ECOs reported to the State University of New York (SUNY) at New Paltz for physical ability testing in hopes of advancing to DEC's next Basic School for recruits. In addition to the usual sit-ups and push-ups, participants swam and ran, with their exercises timed by ECOs. Only those who performed the best moved one step closer to potentially starting a career as an ECO.

People swim laps in a pool
ECO hopefuls swim laps during physical ability testing at SUNY New Paltz

ECOs doing crunches as people watch
ECOs demonstrate the proper way to do sit-ups during physical ability training at SUNY New Paltz

People wearing blue vests running on a blue track
Participants run laps during ECO physical ability training at SUNY New Paltz

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).

  • Contact for this Page
  • Press Office - Jomo Miller
    625 Broadway
    Albany, NY 12233-1016
    email us
  • This Page Covers
  • Page applies to all NYS regions