DEC Environmental Conservation Police Officer Highlights

ECO Actions for Mid-June

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:


Fawn Freed from Under a Fence – Dutchess County

On June 18, ECO Zachary Crain responded to a call for a fawn wedged under a fence in the village of Millerton. ECO Crain found the fawn and freed it from the fence, with the fawn sustaining only minor cuts and scrapes. The homeowner explained that a neighbor had seen a large doe nearby earlier that day. Confident the fawn’s mother was close by, the ECO walked a short distance down the road with the fawn and the its loud bleats soon brought the concerned doe into view. ECO Crain released the fawn and was later told by the caller that the fawn was reunited with its mother in the area where it had been released.


ECO kneeling at a fence carefully removing the fawn from underneath it.
ECO Crain carefully works to free fawn from a fence

Curious Cat Leads Officer to A Rattlesnake – Ulster County

On June 20, ECO Jason Smith received a call from a resident in the town of Rochester reporting a Timber rattlesnake in their fenced backyard. Before ECO Smith arrived, the snake found its way out through a gap in the fence. While gathering information from the caller, the ECO heard the snake rattling nearby. Officer Smith located a housecat adjacent to the roadway seemingly playing with the coiled snake. A few hand claps and whistles sent the housecat away unscathed, a testament to the reluctance of the rattlesnake to strike. ECO Smith moved the snake a short distance from the busy roadway to a wooded area. He coaxed the snake into a pet carrier and released it in a more appropriate habitat. Timber rattlesnakes are a threatened species in New York State, but common to the Shawangunk Ridge area where this snake was found.


Rattlesnake climbing down a rocky path after coming out of a pet carrier
Timber rattlesnake successfully released

Special License Violation – Dutchess County

Earlier this month, ECO Zachary Crain received a call notifying him of two crocodilians and approximately 20 turtles at a private residence in the town of Wappingers Falls. DEC launched an investigation with ECOs Craig Tompkins and Charles Eyler, and a licensed wildlife rehabilitator to determine compliance with a permit on file through DEC’s Special Licenses Unit to possess two “American Alligators” for exhibition/education purposes. During the initial visit and permit compliance check at the residence, ECO Crain found that the animals were being kept in unsanitary conditions. A litter box was repurposed for a miniature Caiman and a 5½-foot American Alligator cramped in an oversized metal dog crate, both located in the homeowner’s living room. In addition to the insufficient enclosures, the permittee was in possession of native Box Turtles and Painted Turtles without the required permits. On June 22, the ECOs, along with Missy Runyan and her staff from FFF Wildlife Center, removed the native turtles and both crocodilians from the poor conditions and brought them to the wildlife center for evaluation and care until permanent placement can be found. The permittee was issued tickets for unlawful possession of wildlife and for violating conditions of a DEC permit, returnable to Town of Wappingers Falls Justice Court.


Injured Loggerhead Sea Turtle Rescued – Nassau County

On June 22, ECOs Michael Unger and Zachary Prentice were on boat patrol when they responded to a report of an injured sea turtle in Reynolds Channel, Nassau County. The turtle had been struck by a propeller. The caller blocked off and marked the area, which has significant boat traffic and a strong outbound current, to wait for the ECOs to arrive. The ECOs brought the sea turtle aboard the DLE boat about one mile south of Jones Beach Inlet with the help of the U.S. Coast Guard and volunteers from the Riverhead Foundation Rescue Center. The large loggerhead sea turtle was transported to Riverhead to be evaluated by medical staff. Loggerhead turtle populations are listed as endangered or threatened under the Endangered Species Act, and boaters should be aware of their presence in coastal waters to avoid collisions.


Large sea turtle on a boat with a crack in its shell near its tail
Injured Loggerhead Sea Turtle aboard DLE vessel

Injured Deer Complaint Turns into Puppy Rescue – Schuyler County

On June 22, ECO Erik Dalecki responded to a call of an injured deer in the town of Reading. ECO Dalecki located the injured deer, but as he approached it he heard a dog crying and howling. The ECO followed the dog’s cries until he located an approximately six-month-old Husky puppy in a large trap. With the assistance of Schuyler County 911, ECO Dalecki found the dog’s owner and returned the dog. The dog had slipped its collar and run off almost 24 hours earlier. ECO Dalecki then located the subject who had set the live trap, and discovered it had been set to catch raccoons, opossums, and possibly coyotes. ECO Dalecki issued two tickets and a written warning to the trap’s owner for trapping out of season, operating an untagged trap, and not having a trapping license.


Women’s Hunter Education Class – Shelter Island

On June 22, DEC’s Hunter Education Program, “Becoming an Outdoors-Woman,” and The Nature Conservancy hosted a women’s hunter education class at Mashomack Preserve on Shelter Island. Twenty-six participants of all ages were taught how to source their own local, free-range organic meat, build confidence, have fun, and connect with nature through hunting. The women learned about hunting ethics, laws, safe firearm handling, tree stand safety, and how to blood trail game. ECOs Evan Laczi and Kaitlin Grady gave a presentation about hunting rules and regulations, the job duties of an ECO, and answered questions from the group. ECO Grady also assisted with safety on the range.


ECO and Fire Department Team Up to Free Trapped Robin – Ontario County

On June 26, ECO Keith Levanway responded to a call from a Canandaigua resident who saw a bird tangled in string hanging upside down in a tree. ECO Levanway arrived to find a young robin tangled in the tree about 25 feet up, too far from the trunk to reach from a ladder. Chief Frank Magnera of the City of Canandaigua Fire Department agreed to assist with a ladder truck and Firefighter Robert Younger climbed the ladder and cut the offending branches. Once back to the ground, the string was removed from the otherwise uninjured bird and it was set free.


Fire truck in a driveway with its ladder extended to the branch on a tree where the bird was dangling
Canandaigua City Fire Department working to free tangled bird