DEC Environmental Conservation Police Officer Highlights

ECO Actions for Early April

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 2018, the 288 ECOs across the state responded to 21,668 calls and worked on cases that resulted in 20,665 tickets or arrests for crimes ranging from deer poaching to solid waste dumping, 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:

 

Uncertified Clams Fly in from China – Queens County

Over the course of several days in late March and early April, ECO Dan Plows received calls from the U.S. Customs and Border Patrol agricultural specialist division at JFK Airport about individuals attempting to illegally import multiple species of shellfish from China. ECOs Plows, Adam Muchow, and Joshua Harvey responded to three separate attempts to import shellfish from China in personal baggage on flights. The shipments included razor clams, oil clams, shelled oysters, varnish clams, and barnacles. In total, the ECOs seized 800 pounds of unlawful and potentially toxic shellfish with the assistance of federal agents. Shellfish are not permitted to be shipped into the country unless those areas of origin have been certified by the FDA. Each of the involved individuals was issued a criminal summons for the possession of shellfish from non-FDA approved waters, returnable to Queens County Court. The seized shellfish were destroyed.

 

Styrofoam coolers lined up on an airport inspection table filled with bags of clams
Portion of recently seized shellfish

 

Raptor Success Story – Onondaga County


On April 3, Lt. David McShane and ECO Don Damrath took part in the release of three young red-tailed hawks previously rescued by ECOs. One of the juvenile hawks had been rescued after suffering an infection from squirrel bites. The successful recovery of these majestic birds is due to the time, attention, and care provided by the volunteer DEC-licensed wildlife rehabilitator who cared for the raptors and the help of a network of veterinary professionals. Young red tails in their first year of life can have a 75-80 percent mortality rate. If they survive the first crucial year, many red-tailed hawks can live up to 10 years. The three raptors took to the air easily and quickly acclimated themselves to their surroundings.

 

ECO standing with his hand in the air as a red-tailed hawk flies off of his arm.
Lt. Dave McShane releases one of the recently rehabilitated red-tailed hawks

 

Stream-Side Outreach – Ulster County
On April 3, ECO Jeannette Bastedo and DLE Intern Joan Korey assisted DEC fish hatchery staff with the stocking of brown trout in streams around the towns of Saugerties and Woodstock. The trout were reared at the Catskill Fish Hatchery in Livingston Manor and stocked in Plattekill Creek. ECO Bastedo and DEC fish culturist Luke Renne spoke with students from Grant D. Morse Elementary School about what the fish eat, fishing regulations, the stocking program, and other related topics. Volunteers from the Federated Sportsmen’s Clubs of Ulster County helped with the event. The students were eager to see the brown trout and speak with the ECO.

Young kids standing around an ECO with their hands raised to ask questions
ECO Bastedo speaking with 4th grade students about fishing and trout stocking

 

Sunken Shanty Becomes a Hazard – St. Lawrence County

ECOs Bret Canary and Joel Schneller located an ice fishing shanty partially submerged in Black Lake in the town of Macomb on April 4. Shanties are required by law to be removed from the ice by March 15, to avoid exactly what happened in this instance. The shanty had no visible identification of ownership, which is also required by law. A concerned citizen provided the ECOs with social media photos from 2018 showing garbage close to the same shanty. ECO Canary waded into the water and hooked a chain to the shanty while ECO Schneller towed the shanty to shore. A closer inspection of the shanty proved it was the same one from the pictures, which also happened to detail a name and address of the owner. The ECOs found the owner and charged them with leaving a shanty on ice after March 15, illegal disposal of solid waste, and creating a navigational hazard.

 

ECO vehicle on the edge of a lake with the ice shanty floating nearby
Ice fishing shanty abandoned in Black Lake

 

Illegal Dumping of E-Waste – Onondaga County

On April 4, ECO Don Damrath worked on a complaint from city of Syracuse officials involving the illegal disposal of flat screen TVs at various locations in the city. Evidence from nine large TVs dumped in the driveway of an abandoned home led ECO Damrath and Syracuse City Police Officer Carlos Romain to a small TV repair shop on the south side of the city. The shop owner admitted to relinquishing broken TVs to at least two individuals for disposal. Working with the information provided by the shop owner, ECO Damrath and Officer Romain located one of the suspects and obtained admissions linking the suspect to several dump sites. ECO Damrath charged both the suspect and the shop owner with unlawful disposal of solid waste. The pair also received tickets for violations of city codes from Officer Romain. The investigation is continuing, and additional arrests are anticipated. Electronic waste (E-waste) such as flat screen TVs, computers, and other electronic wastes, can lead to lead, mercury, cadmium, or other toxins that could contaminate air, water, and soil if not properly recycled. Residents can download the list of registered NYS Electronic Waste Collection Sites sorted by county to find a registered electronic waste collection site near them.

 

An ECO vehicle and a local police vehicle parked near the dump site where multiple flat screen tvs are on the ground.
Flat screen TVs illegally dumped in Syracuse

 

Unethical Anglers Snagged – Tompkins County

On April 5, ECO Jeff Krueger responded to a complaint of three individuals in Fall Creek snagging suckers, a bottom-feeding fish commonly found across New York. Snagging involves rapidly pulling weighted hooks through the water to hook into fish, a method both illegal and unethical. During spawning periods when fish are congregated in shallow waters, “snaggers” can catch numerous fish in a short time. ECO Krueger found the three suspects in possession of numerous suckers and they admitted to snagging one rainbow trout, as well, which they claimed they had released. Two of the subjects had been ticketed for similar unlawful activity in the past. All three were issued two tickets apiece for taking fish by means other than angling and failing to immediately release foul hooked fish. The charges are violations and, if convicted, the subjects could face fines of up to $250 and imprisonment for up to 15 days on each charge.

 

ECO truck with back hatch open and multiple dead fish in the back of the truck
Illegally snagged suckers from Fall Creek in Ithaca

 

Raptor Rescue Weekend – Tompkins and Oswego Counties

On April 6, ECO Jeff Krueger responded to a call of a great horned owl in a chicken coop in the town of Newfield. ECO Krueger found the owl still in the coop, where it had killed a domestic duck and suffered a broken wing. ECO Krueger carefully extracted the talon-clad raptor from the coop and transported it to the Janet Swanson Wildlife Center at Cornell University for treatment. An initial examination by Cornell veterinarians determined the owl’s wing had been broken previously, limiting its ability to hunt and leading the owl to climb into the coop for an easy meal.

On April 7, ECOs Matt Foster and Greg Maneeley responded to a call of an injured adult bald eagle on the banks of the Oswego River. The eagle was acting strangely, sitting low in a tree for three days without moving. The ECOs found the bird clinging to a branch over the river, requiring the officers to request assistance from the Oswego City Fire Department. Approaching the eagle from both the shore on foot and from the water in the Fire Department’s boat, the ECOs safely recovered the bird. The eagle was transported to Wildlife Rehabilitator Jean Soprano for treatment, rehabilitation, and future release.

 

ECO cradling an owl that has been wrapped in a towel Two ECOs standing side by side, one of them holding a bald eagle
ECO Krueger with an injured owl (left); and ECOs Foster and Maneeley with an injured bald eagle

 

All About That Bass – Westchester County

On April 7, ECOs Craig Tompkins, Kevin Wamsley, and Chloe Swansen patrolled Croton Point Park in Croton-on-Hudson. With the weather sunny and beautiful, it was the perfect day to go fishing. More than 25 anglers where checked by the officers and multiple violations of fishing regulations were found. Anglers are allowed to possess only one striped bass, and one group was well over that limit with a total of 48 striped bass found, eight of which were undersized. Six tickets were issued to that group. Another angler possessed five striped bass over their limit and two other anglers had mutilated their striped bass in an attempt to hide their size. Numerous additional tickets were issued, and all of the undersized and over-the-limit fish were confiscated and donated.

 

Three ECOs standing in a wooded parking lot with four long rows of confiscated fish
Striped bass confiscated in a single day

 

Burn Ban and Solid Waste Disposal Violations – Albany County


On April 7, ECOs Wes Leubner and Kurt Bush responded to an open burning complaint in the town of Colonie, where they discovered several cubic yards of material being burned, including waste tires and construction debris. The fire had spread to the surrounding area and the local fire department responded to extinguish it. The ECOs issued two misdemeanor summonses for offenses to the subject responsible for setting the fire.

 

ECO standing near a large pile of smoldering trash and debris
ECO Bush at scene of illegal burning

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