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:
Youth Conservation Program – Suffolk County
Another Successful Youth Turkey Hunting Weekend
On April 20 and 21, numerous Division of Law Enforcement (DLE) members across the northern and central parts of the state assisted a range of organizations that sponsored youth turkey hunting opportunities as part of DEC’s annual youth turkey hunting weekend. DLE members assisted in teaching hunter safety and turkey hunting techniques, as well as serving as mentors for youth participating in turkey hunting. Difficult weather conditions led to less hunter success than in previous years, but everyone participating remained enthusiastic.
Perch Poachers Apprehended – Erie County
Stay on the Trails and Stay Sober – Jefferson County
On April 7, ECO Peter Jackson and Forest Ranger Howard Thomes patrolled Winona State Forest to locate ATV riders illegally operating on snowmobile and cross-country ski trails that are closed to ATV traffic. Ranger Thomes located the group of riders in the town of Lorraine. Five adults were operating a variety of four-wheelers and side-by-side style ATVs and had young children riding with them. The officers found numerous empty alcoholic beverage cans in the machines and the adult operators admitted to drinking alcohol. Field sobriety tests on the ATV operators led to one being arrested and transported to the local New York State Police barracks for chemical testing where he was found to have a blood alcohol content (BAC) of 0.14 percent. The subject was arrested for driving while intoxicated, operating an ATV on public lands where prohibited, and operating an ATV without insurance. The man was arraigned in the Town of Lorraine Court and sent to the Jefferson County Jail on $2,000 cash bail or $4,000 bond. The other riders were released with appearance tickets for operating ATVs on public lands where prohibited and operating ATVs without insurance. DEC reminds everyone that driving an ATV is still operating a motor vehicle. It is illegal to operate an ATV while impaired by drugs or alcohol. Don’t put yourself or your children in danger – drive sober and stay on trails open to ATV travel.
Illegal Brush Burning Leads to Timber Theft Charges – Ulster County
On March 25, ECO Jason Smith was called to an illegal brush fire in the town of Rochester. The property adjacent to the location of the fire was part of an active investigation for the illegal cutting of several trees removed without the owners’ permission. When ECO Smith interviewed a man who said he had started the brush fire to “clean up the bank,” the ECO also asked about the origins of the brush. The man directed the officer to an embankment on the neighboring property and admitted to cutting and taking several of the trees over the course of the past year. Much of the wood was cut into chunks and taken from the neighbor’s property and moved to the man’s own property. With the additional statements and evidence, along with photographs and statements from the complainant, ECO Smith arrested the man and charged him with timber theft, petit larceny, trespass, and unlawful open burning. He was arraigned in the town of Rochester Court on April 10 and pled guilty to the timber theft and unlawful open burn charges.
An Odd (and Stinky) Situation – Ulster County
On April 10, ECO Jeannette Bastedo investigated a complaint regarding a woman in the city of Kingston in possession of several wildlife carcasses. The woman was collecting dead wildlife and keeping the carcasses in her living room, including a Cooper’s Hawk, an opossum, a gray squirrel, several snakes, small birds, mice, and what appeared to be a decomposed small rabbit. Most protected wildlife can only be possessed if legally taken during their respective open seasons. A federal permit is needed to possess any live or dead migratory birds such as the Cooper’s Hawk. Deceased wildlife, regardless of the cause of death, should be left to return to the ecosystem from which it came. The woman was issued a ticket returnable to the City of Kingston Court for illegal possession of wildlife and the carcasses were removed from the residence.
Stepping Over the Line – Raritan Bay and the New York Bight
On April 11, ECOs Michael Wozniak and Adam Muchow patrolled the waters of the New York Bight and Raritan Bay by boat for illegal possession of striped bass. The striped bass season opened March 1 in New Jersey, and on April 15 in New York, and the temptation to fish on the New York side of the state line can be too great for some anglers. Four summonses for possessing striped bass out of season were issued to fishermen from New Jersey who had been actively fishing the waters of New York State. The ECOs explained the different regulations between the two adjacent states and the importance of knowing where you are when recreating on the water. A total of five striped bass ranging in size from 33″ to 38″ were seized. Unfortunately, only one of the bass was still alive and released back to the water, while the remaining four were donated to the needy in Richmond County.
Tackling Turkey Trappers – Suffolk County
During a routine foot patrol in early March, ECOs Ike Bobseine and Rob McCabe found what appeared to be a homemade trap in a wooded area populated by turkeys. For weeks, the ECOs checked the area for signs of activity, and ultimately placed a cellular trail camera at the location to monitor any movement. On April 16, only days after installing the camera, the ECOs remotely watched subjects place corn in the trap and pull a rope that closed the trap on the turkeys that entered. ECOs McCabe, Bobseine, and Jeremy Eastwood closed in on the area from multiple directions, catching the suspects with three turkeys wrapped in burlap and with their heads literally “on the chopping block.” The subjects were charged with eight violations each, including; taking turkeys out of season, hunting without a license, hunting with the aid of bait, and using a trap to catch wild birds. All of the charges are returnable to the Southampton Town Court, with maximum fines totaling more than $7,500. The turkeys were released alive.
Too Many Fish Too Early in Pelham Bay Park – Bronx County
With the striped bass season opening in two days, ECOs Connor Dodge and Zachary Kochanowski patrolled Pelham Bay Park on the evening of April 13. The area is popular with local fishermen and complaints had been received about striped bass being kept before the season opened. Four separate groups of fishermen were found to be in possession of striped bass, including one group with seven fish and another group with six. Only one fish was still alive and released. In total, 15 out-of-season striped bass were seized and 11 summonses were issued. In waters south of the George Washington Bridge, the legal season began on April 15, and the daily possession limit is one striped bass per fishermen, 28 inches or larger in total length.