|New York State Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) Environmental Conservation Police Officers (ECOs) enforce the 71 Chapters of NY Environmental Conservation Law, protecting fish and wildlife and preserving environmental quality across New York.
In 2017, the 301 ECOs across the state responded to 26,400 calls and issued 22,150 tickets for crimes ranging from deer poaching to corporate toxic dumping and illegal mining, the black market pet trade, and excessive emissions violations.
If you witness an environmental crime or believe a violation of environmental law occurred, please call the DEC Division of Law Enforcement hotline at 1-844-DEC-ECOS (1-844-332-3267).
“From Montauk Point to Mount Marcy, from Brooklyn to Buffalo, the ECOs patrolling our state are the first line of defense in protecting New York’s environment and our natural resources, ensuring that they exist for future generations of New Yorkers,” said Commissioner Basil Seggos. “They work long and arduous hours, both deep in our remote wildernesses and in the tight confines of our urban landscapes. Although they don’t receive much public fanfare, the work of our ECOs is critical to achieving DEC’s mission to protect and enhance our environment.”
Recent missions carried out by ECOs include:
Close Call – Suffolk County
On March 23, ECO Brian Farrish was on patrol in Orient when a call came in from the U.S. Coast Guard reporting a vessel in distress in Greenport Harbor. The operator of a pontoon boat was attempting to move an oyster work boat from one location to another when he fell off the back of the boat. The man successfully swam back to the beach in Greenport, was treated for hypothermia, and was transported to Eastern Long Island Hospital for observation. The boat continued to operate on its own, slowing spinning in circles about 100 yards off shore just west of the Shelter Island ferry route. The Southold Marine Unit responded and recovered the boat, and ECO Farrish helped with the transfer of the vessel to Greenport Oyster Company’s dock.
Pontoon boat safely back at the dock
Illegal Coyote Hunting – Niagara County
On March 25, ECOs Kevin Holzle, George Scheer, and Shea Mathis responded to a report of hunters trespassing in the town of Porter. While en route, the officers stopped two vehicles matching the description of the vehicles involved. Niagara County Sheriff’s Deputies secured the scene while the ECOs interviewed the subjects. A nearby landowner had observed the hunters pull over on the road and shoot at a coyote running across his field. This account of the incident led ECOs to a spot where they found the casing from a recently discharged .223 caliber rifle round. The suspect eventually admitted to shooting at the coyote and was issued tickets for discharging a firearm within 500 feet of a dwelling and attempting to take protected wildlife unlawfully. He is scheduled to appear in the Town of Porter Court to answer the charges.
The Case of the Ivory Dragon – Richmond County
On March 25, ECO Michael Wozniak found a person illegally offering a carved ivory necklace for sale on Craigslist. Officer Wozniak set up a meeting with the individual to purchase the necklace. ECO Max Woyton provided uniformed backup while ECO Wozniak went in plainclothes and met with the individual for the sale. After the purchase, ECO Wozniak identified himself as an ECO and explained that it is illegal to sell or offer for sale an article of ivory within New York State without a proper permit. A Notice of Violation was issued to the seller, the necklace was seized as evidence, and the case will be handled administratively by Region 2 counsel.
The carved ivory necklace seized for evidence
That’s No Coyote – St. Lawrence County
On March 26, ECO Scott Atwood investigated a complaint of a deer being taken out of season in the town of Clifton. When the officer arrived at a camp described in the complaint, he found fresh blood, drag marks, deer hair, and a pickup truck stuck in the snow at an adjacent camp. A search of the area determined the location of where the deer had been shot. Drag marks led to a small pond where the ECO found a fresh gut pile. ECO Atwood received a phone call from the truck’s owner. Initially, the man attempted to use a bogus story as to how the deer was killed. ECO Atwood advised the man he had evidence to prove otherwise and gave the subject a second opportunity to tell the truth. The man stated that while he and a friend were coyote hunting, he saw an animal out in a field adjacent to his coyote caller. Excited to kill his first coyote, the subject took aim using only the moonlight, believing the animal was a coyote. After walking out to the field to where the animal went down, the subject realized it was a doe deer. Afraid of getting in trouble, the subject chose to gut the deer and keep it. The deer was hidden in the garage at the camp until his return. ECO Atwood charged the shooter with taking deer during the closed season, killing deer except as permitted by the Fish and Wildlife law, and illegal possession of protected wildlife. The man’s friend was issued a written warning for illegal possession of wildlife. The man’s gun and the deer were seized and the deer was brought to a butcher shop where it was donated to the Helping Hands of Hannawa, which provides meals to the local community.
ECO Atwood with seized deer and gun
Injured Goose – Richmond County
On March 26, ECOs Michael Wozniak and Max Woyton received a call about an injured Canada Goose at Miller Field in Richmond County. The ECOs responded, located the goose and determined its right wing was damaged. The officers captured the goose in a cardboard box and transported it without further injury to the Staten Island Animal Hospital, where it received veterinary care from Dr. Irwin Ruderman. The goose is expected to recover from its injuries and will be transported to Animal Nation in Rye, where it will receive further rehabilitation.
ECOs Max Woyton and Michael Wozniak with
Dr. Ruderman and the injured goose
Dumping Garbage Gets You Jail Time – Sullivan County
On March 27, ECO Tom Koepf received a call from a complainant stating that someone dumped garbage on his vacant four-acre property in the town of Mamakating. The officer went to the location and dug through the garbage pile. After approximately one hour of cutting open trash bags, the ECO discovered that the garbage originated from a location in the town of Middletown in Orange County. The next day, ECOs Koepf and Corey Hornicek went to the residence in Middletown and spoke to a subject who stated that his grandmother, who lived at the address, had recently passed away and he was in the process of cleaning out the house. He further told the ECOs that he had loaded garbage into his friend’s truck about a week earlier because the friend said he knew of a dumpster where he could legally get rid of it. The subject provided a written statement to the officers indicating that the friend was currently in jail, as he had allegedly been involved in a DWI motor vehicle incident the night before. The ECOs confirmed that the friend was incarcerated at the Orange County Correctional Facility and filed accusatory instruments in the Town of Mamakating Court for charges of unlawful disposal of solid waste, depositing a noisome or unwholesome substance on or near a public highway, and trespassing on posted property. The judge issued an arrest warrant with the Orange County Correctional Facility the same day to prevent the defendant from fleeing after release. ECO Ricky Wood went to the jail, picked the subject upon the arrest warrant, and had him arraigned in the Town of Mamakating Court. A Town of Mamakating judge immediately committed the subject to the Sullivan County Jail and set a return date for him to appear back in court on the new charges.
Garbage dumped in Mamakating
Paul Smith’s College Career Fair – Franklin County
On March 29, ECOs Jim Cranker and Jennifer Okonuk, Forest Rangers Pete Evans and Megan McCone, and Vermont Fish and Wildlife Game Wardens attended Paul Smith’s College 34th Annual Spring Career Fair. The college hosts twice-yearly career fairs, which are great opportunities to make network connections and to educate students about careers in conservation. Many of the recruiters are also Paul Smith’s College alumni. The presenters shared information and first-hand experience on jobs, internships, field experience, and graduate school opportunities for both current students and recent graduates.
Officers from three agencies at Paul Smith’s Career Fair
Hawk Rescue – Westchester County
On March 30, ECO Dustin Dainack received a call from New York State Police dispatch regarding a red tail hawk found injured in North Salem. ECO Dainack met with ECO Craig Tompkins and together with the officers quickly found the hawk perched on a stone wall. ECO Tompkins approached the hawk from one angle with a towel to cover it while ECO Dainack slowly crept up behind the injured hawk and threw his coat on the bird to keep it calm. The ECOs then placed the hawk gently in a box and took it to the Brewster Animal Hospital, where it was seen by a veterinarian and found to have a broken wing. The hawk will be treated at the animal hospital and then transferred to Green Chimneys, a non-profit organization for animal rehabilitation, before being released back into the wild.
ECO Dainack with the injured hawk
at Brewster Animal Hospital
Yogurt Skunk – Westchester County
While on patrol in Peekskill on March 30, ECO Craig Tompkins came upon two city of Peekskill employees looking at a skunk in the road. Thinking the skunk was injured, ECO Tompkins stopped to see if he could be of assistance. The city employees told the officer that the skunk had a plastic yogurt container stuck on its head. With the use of a pair of grabbers, ECO Tompkins was able to hold the skunk. Making sure not to be sprayed, he then slowly worked the container free from the skunk’s head. Once freed, the skunk ran up the sidewalk and entered a small patch of woods, seemingly unharmed.
Skunk with its head stuck in a yogurt container