DEC Environmental Conservation Police Officer Highlights

Recent ECO Highlights

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 2019, the 288 ECOs across the state responded to 25,704 calls and worked on cases that resulted in 16,855 tickets or arrests for crimes ranging from deer poaching to solid waste dumping, illegal mining, the black market pet trade, and excessive emissions violations.

2020 marks 50 years for DEC and 140 Years for New York’s Conservation Police Officers. In 1880, the first eight Game Protectors proudly began serving to protect the natural resources and people of New York State.

“From Montauk Point and 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. “Our ECOs have worked arduous hours, both deep in our remote wildernesses and in the tight confines of our urban landscapes, for far longer than the 50 years since DEC was created. These officers are critical to achieving DEC’s mission to protect and enhance our environment and I am confident they will continue this important mission for the next 50 years and beyond.”

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).

Push Ups for Suicide Awareness – Onondaga County
On May 20, Bureau of Environmental Crimes Lieutenant Neil Stevens and ECOs Paul Sherman, Don Damrath, Matt Foster, and Matt Burdick joined 50 other police officers from 15 different agencies at the New York State Fairgrounds for the “22 Push-Ups for 22 Days” challenge. This national challenge raises awareness about the high suicide rates of military combat veterans and law enforcement officers. The five Region 7 ECOs volunteered to participate in the challenge, and easily completed the 22 push-ups. Video: 22 Push-Up Challenge Finale.mp4

five eco officers standings in front af a building with flags flying behind them
ECOs participate in 22 Push-up Challenge to raise
awareness about veteran and law enforcement suicides

Eagle Released at Letchworth State Park – Livingston County
On June 6, a rehabilitated bald eagle took to the skies over Letchworth State Park after being found injured at the park several months ago. On December 14, 2019, New York State Park Police requested assistance from ECOs Josh Crain and Ron Gross to capture the injured eagle. Once captured, the Officers transferred the eagle to Cornell University for evaluation where experts determined it needed surgery, including placement of a pin in its wing. After surgery, the eagle was transferred to Messenger Woods Wildlife Care and Education Center, where it underwent extensive rehabilitation in a 165-foot flight cage until ready for release back at Letchworth.

the eagle flying with it's wings expanded
Rehabilitated eagle released at Letchworth State Park

Mystery Snake Finds New Home – Steuben County
On June 10, ECO Ron Gross received a complaint from an individual in Corning who found a python in their apartment. ECO Gross responded and identified the snake as a ball python, a common pet. The python is legal to own and often sold at pet stores, but the subject had no idea where it came from and neither did anyone else in the building. The subject who found the snake suspected it may have escaped or been left behind by previous tenants. One of the subject’s neighbors asked if she could keep the animal as a pet. Since ball pythons are not regulated by DEC and the animal appeared to be in good health, ECO Gross allowed the neighbor to take possession of the animal.

someone holding the ball python in their hand
Ball python found in apartment building

Safe Relocation for Wandering Bear – Dutchess County
On June 14, ECOs Mike Hameline and Kevin Wamsley received a call reporting a bear in the city of Beacon. The bear was seen wandering the neighborhood during the day and would not leave the highly populated area. Eventually the bear climbed a tree, drawing a crowd. The ECOs secured the area, ensuring people stayed a safe distance away, and a DEC biologist arrived on scene and tranquilized the bear without incident. The biologist darted the bear in the tree with pads set up at the base to cushion its fall.

After ECOs secured the bear, the biologist checked the animal’s vitals to ensure it was in good health and tagged it for identification purposes before placing the bear in a trailer for transport. ECOs transported the bear to a less populated area in the county and released it after the effects of the tranquilizer wore off. DEC reminds the public not to interact with bears. If left alone and given the opportunity, nearly all bears that wander into urban or suburban areas will leave as quickly and quietly as they appear, without serious conflict or the need for physical removal. For more information, visit DEC webpages on black bears and reducing bear-human conflicts.

the sedated bear laying on the ground in front of two kneeling ecos with mouth coverings on
ECOs Kevin Wamsley and Mike Hameline with sedated bear

Missing Man Located by ECO – Greene County
On June 16, ECO Lucas Palmateer responded to a 911 call in the town of Coxsackie reporting a man missing from an assisted living facility. ECO Palmateer learned from the call that the man is interested in railroads and headed to a location near a set of railroad tracks where the subject had been seen walking several minutes earlier. ECO Palmateer used binoculars to survey the surrounding fields and spotted the man near a wood line. The ECO made contact with the man and ensured he was returned to the facility in good health.

Rattlesnake Relocation – Columbia County
On June 20, ECO Jeff Cox received a call from a concerned homeowner in Copake reporting a large rattlesnake on their front porch. The homeowner sent pictures of the pit viper, confirming it was a timber rattlesnake. Timber rattlesnakes are the largest venomous snake in New York and listed as a threatened species. The rattlesnake appeared to come and go over the weekend before slithering under the house, causing the homeowner to worry it was taking up residence there. Members of DEC’s Division of Law Enforcement consulted with wildlife staff and decided to trap and relocate the rattlesnake. After a few unsuccessful attempts, ECO Cox wrangled the rattlesnake into a container on the morning of June 24. The rattlesnake was transported to a location in the Taconic Mountains, which is a known den site and released unharmed. The homeowner expressed great appreciation that the unwanted guest was removed from their residence.

rattlesnake coiled up next to a patch of greenery
Rattlesnake slithers under porch of Columbia County residence

Ducks Rescued – Schenectady County
On June 21, ECO Brian Willson responded to a call from concerned citizens reporting ducklings trapped in a storm drain in Schenectady. ECO Willson, with help from several citizens, removed the ducklings from the drain. The ducklings were then reunited with their mother and safely relocated to the Schenectady Central Park pond.

nine duckilings in a pool
Ducklings rescued in Schenectady County

Wildlife Response Team Rescues Milk Snake – Delaware County
On June 23, ECOs Nathan Doig and Dustin Osborne received a complaint that a milk snake had found its way into a residence in the town of Davenport and was trapped in a live wire electrical box. Officers responded to the residence with snake tongs and hand tools to safely remove it. First, ECOs shut off the main breaker as a safety precaution, eliminating power to the house. Next, ECO Osborne removed the cover to the electrical service box while ECO Doig used snake tongs to safely remove the snake from inside the electrical panel. The snake appeared to have entered the electrical panel through the conduit feed entering the home from outside power lines. ECOs released the snake back into the wild without any harm.

milk snake wrapped around a pole
Milk snake removed from electrical box

Bear Takes Nap and Then Takes Off – St. Lawrence County
On June 24, a bear took a nap in a maple tree on Hamilton Street in Potsdam, but it didn’t stay long. The small bear left the tree on its own later in the evening. ECOs and DEC Wildlife staff monitored the situation to ensure the bear’s safety and that of the small crowd that gathered. This is a great example of how residents should respond if a bear comes into their community. If left alone and given the opportunity, nearly all bears that wander into urban or suburban areas will leave as quickly and quietly as they appear, without serious conflict or a need for physical removal. For more information, visit DEC webpages on black bears and reducing bear-human conflicts.

https://www.dec.ny.gov/press/press.html