Environmental Conservation Police On Patrol
New York State Department of Environmental Conservation’s (DEC) Division of Law Enforcement enforces the 71 chapters of New York State’s Environmental Conservation Law (ECL), protecting fish and wildlife and preserving environmental quality across New York. In 1880, the first eight Game Protectors proudly began serving to protect the natural resources and people of New York State. In 2021, 282 Environmental Conservation Police Officers (ECOs) and Investigators across the state responded to 26,207 calls and worked on cases that resulted in 11,562 tickets or arrests for crimes ranging from deer poaching to solid waste dumping, illegal mining, the black market pet trade, and excessive emissions violations. Some of these incidents result in injuries, property damage, or even death, and starting this year, ‘ECO Highlights’ is transitioning to a new title, ‘Environmental Conservation Police On Patrol.’
“DEC Environmental Conservation Police Officers and Investigators are on the front lines each and every day protecting our natural resources by upholding New York’s environmental laws and regulations and safeguarding public health,” DEC Commissioner Basil Seggos said. “From ensuring hunters and anglers follow rules and regulations afield and on the water, to sustaining partnerships with local law enforcement agencies investigating crimes that include solid waste dumping and air emissions violations, ECOs and Investigators are on patrol, ready to serve their communities. Each year brings new challenges, and fortunately, these Officers and Investigators are expertly trained to perform their duties with persistence, integrity, and good judgment, as they’ve done for over a century.”
Illegal Striped Bass for Sale – Nassau County
On Jan 25., ECOs Pabes, Kochanowski, and Anderson conducted a retail market check in the seafood department of a grocery store in Uniondale, Long Island. During their inspection, the Officers discovered three undersized and untagged striped bass, along with a filleted striped bass on display for sale. The seafood department manager was unable to produce the required tag for the filleted striped bass. ECOs issued three citations for possession of undersized fish, unlawful sale of untagged striped bass, and unlawful sale of striped bass fillets without a tagged carcass available. All tickets are returnable to Nassau County District Court.
Illegal fish on display in seafood department of grocery store
Owl Help You – Erie County
On Jan. 30, ECO Mathis received a call from a citizen concerned about the welfare of an owl in Bowmansville. The owl, perched near the entrance of a busy gas station, was unphased by customers passing within feet of its perch. ECO Mathis arrived at the gas station and determined the owl was likely struck by a vehicle and injured. The ECO secured the Eastern Screech-Owl and transported it to the Erie County SPCA Wildlife Department for rehabilitation.
Injured owl at gas station in Bowmansville
ECO Mathis holding injured owl rescued from a busy gas station
Snowmobile Patrols – Oswego County
On Feb. 5 and 6, ECOs patrolled snowmobile trails in Oswego County. ECOs Brown, Wozniak, Wing, and Bonilla patrolled trails in the towns of Redfield, Constantia, Schroeppel, Hastings, and West Monroe to enforce New York State’s Snowmobiling regulations and encourage participants to safely engage in this popular winter activity. Over the course of the detail, Officers issued 26 tickets. Common violations included unlawfully modified exhaust systems, failure to stop at crossings, failure to keep right, and expired registrations and insurance. Similar violations led to tickets and warnings issued in Delaware County where ECOs Osbourne and Woodin also patrolled. In addition to enforcement, ECOs routinely educate the public about safe snowmobile operation during these important details. For more information about snowmobiling safely this winter, visit the Office of State Parks, Recreation and Historic Preservation website.
ECOs Brown and Wing on patrol
ECOs check snowmobilers in Delaware County
Undersized Lobster and Unpermitted Shellfish Storage – New York County
On Feb.6, ECOs Michalet, Pansini, and Veloski conducted a commercial fisheries market check on Manhattan’s Lower East Side. Upon entering one location, the Officers discovered violations including improper storage of shellfish. The ECOs found two containers of clams submerged in water, a practice that requires a special DEC permit because of the high potential to spread disease. The two species of clams totaled approximately 32 pounds. After sorting through multiple storage tanks, ECOs also discovered 36 undersized lobsters. Officers seized the lobsters and clams and issued a Notice of Violation to the store manager.
Unpermitted in-water storage of shellfish
Head of the Class – Suffolk County
On Feb. 8, police at Stony Brook University contacted ECOs about a deer that had entered a classroom in Harriman Hall through a small plexiglass window. ECO Kaufherr, Lieutenant Reilly, DEC Biologist Lupo, and DEC Wildlife Technician Wiedermann responded to the school to assist. They coordinated to place a catch pole around the head of the trapped deer, escorted it outside the building, and released it. The approximately 120-pound buck, which had shed its antlers, had no apparent injuries beyond a small cut near one of its rear hoofs, likely caused by crashing through the window. From first notification to release of the deer, this incident was resolved in approximately 45 minutes. Affected students moved into an adjacent classroom and continued their studies.
Deer in Stony Brook University classroom
Unwelcome Guest – Greene County
On Feb. 8, ECO Smith received a call from a resident in the town of Cairo reporting a white-tailed deer stuck in an unfinished house foundation on a neighboring property. When ECO Smith arrived, he found the adult deer mobile and uninjured. ECO Smith retrieved a large tarp from his patrol vehicle, entered the foundation with the deer, and captured it in the tarp. Officer Smith and the caller worked together to slide the deer up the snow-covered steps and release it to the nearby wooded area.
White-tailed deer stuck in unfinished house foundation
Seafood Market Detail – Westchester County
On Feb. 9, ECOs Tompkins, Thibodeau, Swansen, and Franz conducted a detail in southern Westchester County focusing on seafood market compliance in Port Chester and Mount Vernon. ECOs conducted inspections at nine locations and issued four summonses for violations including possessing untagged shellfish and possessing undersized fish.
ECO Franz seizing untagged clams
Bottle Deposit Violations at Walmart – Central New York
On Feb. 10, plainclothes ECOs in Region 7 responded to 13 stores in response to a complaint alleging the sale of beverages in containers not marked with the New York State bottle deposit refund amount, although deposits were still being taken. The beverages in question were six packs of 33-ounce Great Value Brand Hydrate Alkaline Water. Officers issued administrative tickets and have since been notified by corporate headquarters that a recall notification was sent to all stores in New York to remove the non-compliant products from store shelves and donate the product to the national food bank network Feeding America.
Bottled water pulled from store shelves due to deposit violations
Bait Pile Busted – Chautauqua County
In Chautauqua County, a hunter contacted ECO Dougherty reporting the presence of a baited tree stand a short distance from his permitted hunting area. After observing the empty tree stand, baited with corn, ECOs Dougherty and Freeman surveyed the area and spotted an individual walking across the field dressed in camo and carrying a crossbow. The pair watched as the hunter made his way to the tree stand before approaching him. ECOs interviewed the hunter and charged him with hunting deer with the aid of a pre-established bait pile, hunting deer with a crossbow out of season, hunting deer with a barbed broadhead, failure to carry a license and tags while hunting, and failure to wear a backtag while hunting. The charges are currently pending in the Town of Mina Court.
Bait pile found in town of Mina, Chautauqua County
Way Too Close to Home – Chautauqua County
ECO Dougherty recently received a call from the town of Carrol Police reporting a house struck by a bullet a few days prior. The bullet entered an occupied bedroom and ricocheted off a wall before getting lodged in an interior door. Officer Dougherty investigated and confirmed the round passed over a main road before it struck the home. The ECO was also able to identify the shooter. ECOs Dougherty and Freeman, along with an Officer from the town of Carroll, returned the next day and with the owner’s permission and removed the door and bullet lodged inside it. After taking statements from both the shooter and the resident, Officers charged the shooter with discharging a firearm where the load passes over a public highway and second-degree reckless endangerment. Charges are pending in the Town of Carroll Court.
Door shot by stray bullet
Owned Up to Baiting Deer – Westchester County
In Westchester County, a hunter recently paid a penalty for charges related to hunting crimes committed last year. On Nov. 7, 2021, ECO Thibodeau received a call from the Village of Irvington Police Department about a truck suspiciously parked off the Saw Mill River Parkway with hunting gear inside. Officer Thibodeau responded to the area and approached a hunter as he exited the woods with a bow and a seven-point buck. The hunter, who claimed he was hunting on private property, received tickets for incorrect tags and violating the village noise ordinance. The following morning, ECOs Thibodeau and Tompkins discovered the hunter may not have been telling the truth. The Officers located the gut pile of the seven-pointer and followed the blood trail back to where the deer was believed to be shot on village of Irvington land, not private property. After further investigation, including images from nearby trail cameras, the hunter admitted to putting molasses on a tree in the area before the season to view the deer. He was then additionally charged with hunting deer with a pre-established bait pile and illegal take of big game. The subject paid a $500 penalty in the Village of Irvington Court.
Seized 7-point Buck
“Coffee with the Cops” – Niagara County
On Feb. 12, ECOs George Scheer, Fay Fuerch, and K-9 Handley were joined by Sheriff Filicetti and Deputies from the Niagara County Sheriff’s Office for a “Coffee with a Cop” outreach initiative held at the Runnings Store in Lockport. The ECOs and Sheriff’s Deputies were well received by the public, as was the fresh coffee. The ECOs and Deputies fielded questions from patrons. The “Coffee with a Cop” initiative was created in 2011 by the Hawthorn Police Department in the state of California to improve trust and build relationships – one cup of coffee at a time. Coffee with a Cop events are now held in all 50 states.
ECO Fuerch introducing K-9 Handley to a family
ECOs joined by Sheriff Filicetti and Niagara County Deputies