DEC Environmental Conservation Police Officer Highlights

ECO Actions for Mid-October

New York State Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) Environmental Conservation Police Officers (ECOs) enforce the 71 Chapters of NY Environmental Conservation Law (ECL), 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 DEC 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:

Hunting Couple Can’t Keep Stories Straight – Warren County


On the evening of Oct. 12, ECO George LaPoint received a call from a homeowner in the town of Stony Creek. The caller reported that his neighbor had shot a bear within 500 feet of his house. ECO LaPoint and ECO Rob Higgins arrived at the suspect’s residence and the man showed the ECOs the bear, which was tagged with his wife’s tag. The ECOs asked the wife to show them where she had shot the bear while the husband was asked to stay inside. ECO Higgins and the wife walked to a hunting shack while discussing the details of how the bear had been shot while ECO LaPoint followed an ATV trail and drag marks to a pile of corn, where he discovered fresh bear blood. With the wife’s story crumbling, the husband admitted to shooting the bear within 500 feet of the neighbor’s home and over the illegal bait pile. The subject was issued tickets for illegally feeding bears, taking a bear over bait, and illegally taking wildlife. The wife was issued a ticket for lending her tags. The neighbor declined to press charges for shooting within 500 feet of his residence. The case will be heard in the Stony Creek Town Court in the coming weeks.

 

ECO LaPoint with the deceased bear
ECO LaPoint with illegally killed bear

 

Untagged Turkey – Putnam County

On Oct. 20, ECO Kevin Wamsley received call from a bowhunter in the town of Putnam Valley. The bowhunter had heard gun shots during the bow hunting season. ECO Wamsley responded to the area and met with the bowhunter, who pointed him in the direction of where he heard the shots. ECO Wamsley made his way to the area and found two large feeders overflowing with corn. He soon located a parked vehicle nearby and waited for the owner to return. A short time later, an individual came over a hill with an untagged hen turkey in hand. ECO Wamsley asked the individual about the bait and the man quickly admitted to placing it there for turkeys and deer. Two summonses were issued, one for failure to tag a turkey as required and one for taking a turkey with the aid of bait. The turkey was seized and donated, and the charges are returnable in Putnam Valley Town Court.

 

Deceased turkey
Turkey shot illegally over bait

Deer Cases Abound – Putnam County

On Oct. 20, ECO Kevin Wamsley received a call from a resident in Carmel who had discovered a dead deer in his yard. The deer had been pierced by an arrow. ECO Wamsley arrived and checked a wooded area behind the home where he found a second dead deer with an arrow wound, and drag marks leading to a house nearby. As the officer made his way to the house, he found a large pile of corn nearby. ECO Wamsley requested ECO Craig Tompkins to assist him in the investigation. When the homeowner returned, he quickly admitted to the officers that he had shot the large doe over the bait, but could not drag it to his house alone. He denied shooting the original deer in the neighbor’s yard. The individual was issued two summonses, one for taking a deer over bait and one for illegally taking deer, both returnable to Town of Carmel Court. Both deer were donated to a local sanctuary. The ECOs are still investigating the first deer case.

Illegal Sidewalk Sale of Striped Bass – New York County

On Oct. 20, ECOs Chloe Swansen and Brendan Dickson were dispatched to a complaint of short striped bass being offered for sale in Manhattan’s Chinatown. As the ECOs arrived at the address provided, the officers noticed people gathered on the sidewalk viewing 12 striped bass laid out on black plastic bags being offered at prices below market rate. ECO Swansen quickly stepped in and ended the sidewalk sale. The ECOs interviewed the seller, who admitted to catching the undersized striped bass in the Hudson River. The fisherman did not possess a valid food fish permit for selling the fish. As a result, the seller was issued three summonses returnable to Manhattan Court.

 

Five short striped bass on black plastic
Short Striped Bass offered for sale on Chinatown
sidewalk

Too Many Blackfish Taken in Battery Park – New York County

On Oct. 20, ECOs Chloe Swansen and Brendan Dickson received a complaint about a man hiding fish in a bag at Battery Park. The ECOs met the complainant at the park, who identified the fisherman and where the illegal fish were hidden. The two ECOs split up and observed the fisherman from different locations. After a few minutes, the fisherman reeled in his line, walked to his bicycle, and pulled up a green mesh bag. The ECOs approached and discovered that the bag contained a total of 10 blackfish, nine of which were under the legal size of 16 inches. The daily possession limit of blackfish is four. The fisherman was issued three citations, all returnable to Manhattan Court.

 

Multiple undersized blackfish on a dock
Over the limit and undersized blackfish from Battery Park

Just Because Someone Sells You Something, Doesn’t Make it Legal – Ulster County


On Oct. 20, ECOs Jeannette Bastedo and Jason Smith responded to a complaint from the Ulster County SPCA regarding a couple in the town of Saugerties in possession of a snapping turtle. The female had recently been arrested by Ulster Regional Gang Enforcement Narcotics Team (URGENT) for a variety of offenses after a search warrant of their residence confirmed that narcotics were being sold there. The Ulster County SPCA was alerted due to several domestic and exotic animals found at the residence. ECOs Bastedo and Smith responded to the residence and confirmed that the species was indeed a large snapping turtle. The ECOs visited the Ulster County Jail to interview the female, who stated that she had bought the turtle and didn’t know it was illegal to possess the animal without a permit. The turtle was seized and safely transferred to a wildlife rehabilitator. The woman was charged with illegally possessing the turtle.

 

Illegal snapping turtle in a tank
Snapping turtle kept as a pet