DEC Environmental Conservation Police Officer Highlights
ECO Actions for Late August
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:
Lights Out in Jamaica Bay – Queens County
On Aug. 16, ECOs Connor Dodge and Josh Jarecki were conducting late night fishing checks along the North Channel Bridge in Queens County when they noticed the glow of headlamps along the shore of Jamaica Bay. The area has had a number of illegal clamming complaints, but the ECOs walked the shoreline and discovered a group searching for blue crabs. The officers waited on the shoreline until the crabbers were done for the night and checked to see if their crabs were within regulation size. As the individuals approached the ECOs, members of the group dropped a 5-gallon bucket, a bag, and another storage container full of crabs and continued walking toward ECO Dodge. ECO Jarecki had stayed back and watched as the group abandoned their catch. After some discussion, the group admitted that the crabs were theirs. The ECOs counted and measured 246 crabs, finding 105 crabs under the legal size limit, and 46 crabs over the legal limit. Four summonses were issued to members of the group, two for taking over the limit of blue crabs and two for possession of undersized blue crabs, all returnable to Queens County Court. The illegal crabs were returned to Jamaica Bay.
Bears Are Not Pets – Ulster County
On Aug. 23, ECO Jeannette Bastedo responded to a complaint of a woman feeding black bears in the town of Hurley. When ECO Bastedo arrived at the residence, one bear fled the property and a large male bear continued to feed from a dog food bowl on a raised deck. After several blasts of the siren on ECO Bastedo’s patrol vehicle, the bear left the deck. ECO Bastedo found multiple, large bowls full of sunflower seeds and containers full of water on the deck. A mother bear and two cubs were spotted in a tree nearby. The woman responsible for feeding the bears said that if she took away the food, the bears might try to get into her house. ECO Bastedo explained that feeding bears is prohibited because it causes the animals to become habituated to receiving food from people rather than from the wild, and as a result the bears can lose their natural fear of humans. The habituation of bears receiving food sources from humans unfortunately can result in negative incidents for bears and humans alike. ECO Bastedo issued the woman a ticket for unlawfully feeding black bears, returnable to the Town of Hurley Court.
Stuck Sea Turtle – Kings County
On Aug. 24, ECO Robert Kaufherr received a call about a sea turtle stranded in the jetty along the Belt Parkway Bicycle Path in Brooklyn. ECO Kaufherr located the turtle, but couldn’t reach it due to the 15-foot drop from the pathway to the slippery jetty. ECO Ryan Grogan arrived to assist and the two ECOs borrowed a ladder and rope from a construction crew working in the area to safely descend and retrieve the sea turtle. A rope was tied to a large bin and lowered down to the officers. The turtle was lifted to the bike path. The officers identified the turtle as a young Loggerhead Sea Turtle and observed a fishing hook caught in its mouth. The officers contacted the Riverhead Foundation to transport the injured animal to a rehabilitation center. The turtle will be treated and reintroduced to the wild. The Loggerhead Sea Turtle is listed as an endangered species that can live up to 70 years of age and reach weights of up to 1,000 pounds as an adult.
Skunk in a Cup – Oneida County
Short Fluke – Suffolk County
On Aug. 25, ECO Nicholas Nicholas was on early morning patrol at Captree State Park in Islip when he observed two men fishing from a pier. When ECO Nicholas asked whether they had caught any fish, the men said they had caught three. An inspection of their cooler revealed three fluke, but when ECO Nicholas measured the fish, they were all below the legal length of 19 inches. The three fish were seized by ECO Nicholas, and he issued one ticket for taking three undersized fluke.