Environmental Conservation Police on Patrol

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.”

Walleye Challenge – Great Sacandaga Lake, Fulton/Saratoga/Franklin/Essex Counties
On Feb. 18, ECOs and Sheriff’s Deputies in Fulton and Montgomery counties conducted patrols on Great Sacandaga Lake the evening before the annual Walleye Challenge ice fishing contest. Officers checked ice ridges on the lake and alerted event organizers about safety hazards and open water. On the morning of Feb. 19, ECOs were joined by local law enforcement from the New York State Police, Saratoga County Sheriff’s Office, and Montgomery County Sheriff’s Office to monitor the challenge, which drew 2,000 participants. Using snowmobiles, ATVs, and UTVs, the Officers focused on public safety. Throughout the day, the ECOs responded to four calls for machines and individuals through the ice and into the water; all who fell through made it out safely. A half-submerged snowmobile was recovered, as well.

The Walleye Challenge on the Great Sacandaga Lake was part of a series of weekend-long ice fishing contests throughout New York State, including contests on Lake Colby in Franklin County and Schroon Lake in Essex County. In addition to the ice rescues, ECOs conducted patrols to ensure anglers followed the Environmental Conservation Law. While most anglers complied with all requirements, Officers issued 13 tickets over the weekend of March 5 for violations including fishing without a license, failure to wear a helmet, and operating an unregistered snowmobile. A total of 31 law enforcement members participated.

For more information on ice safety visit the Learn How To Ice Fish webpage.

UTVs and ATVs on the ice
ECOs with Fulton County and Montgomery County Sheriff’s Deputies check ice conditions before the 2022 Walleye Challenge

red and orange sky over the lake
Sunrise of the Walleye Ice-fishing Challenge

ECO patrols the ice where a UTV went through
ECOs and New York State Police Underwater Recovery Team assist with a UTV that broke through the ice

ECOs stand with two people holding a fish
ECOs Okonuk and Riggs with Steve Bombard and his niece, Maddalena Hoeth, and a 25″ salmon at the Colby Classic

Lawson Lake Winter Festival 2022 – Ice Fishing Clinic
On Feb. 26, ECO Bevis assisted DEC Fisheries personnel with an ice fishing clinic at this year’s Winter Festival at Lawson Lake, hosted by the Albany County Department of Recreation. Attendees, many of them children, learned various ice fishing techniques, including how to drill holes in the ice and fish with live bait. The festival also included ice skating and hoverboard riding. The event had an excellent turnout and participants caught a variety of fish species including pickerel and perch.

ECO standing with a kid and their catch
ECO Bevis with a novice angler at Winterfest 2022

ECO standing with two kids and their catch
ECO Bevis poses with two young anglers excited about their catch


Illegal Commercialization of Wildlife – Sullivan County
On March 3, Lieutenant Buckley, Investigator Bastedo, and ECO Parker conducted an enforcement detail to crack down on the illegal commercialization of wildlife in Sullivan County. While in plainclothes, Investigator Bastedo and ECO Parker entered an antique shop in the town of Liberty and, within a few minutes, located several artifacts made from ivory, alligator parts, and leopard parts. After the items were positively identified, Officers identified themselves and seized the pieces as evidence. Several notices of violation were issued to the store owners for offering ivory, alligator parts, and leopard parts for sale. The store owners agreed to a consent order and paid $2,500 in penalties.

ECO stands at a table with illegal items on it
ECO Parker with items seized in illegal commercialization of wildlife detail

Painted Turtles for Sale – Nassau County
On March 12, ECO Pabes discovered an online ad offering painted turtles for sale in Hempstead. The ECO posed as an interested customer and contacted the seller who offered five painted turtles for $200. While not endangered, the turtles are native wildlife and selling or keeping them as pets is illegal. On March 15, Environmental Conservation Investigators (ECIs) Eastwood, Farrish, and Grady, along with ECOs Kochanowski and Pabes, organized a “buy/bust” for the turtles at a Hempstead parking lot. Posing as a customer, ECI Grady met with the seller as ECIs Eastwood and Farrish stood by in an undercover vehicle. ECOs Kochanowski and Pabes intercepted the transaction, seized the turtles, and ticketed the seller for illegal possession/sale of protected wildlife, returnable to Nassau First District Court. The Officers turned the turtles over to a licensed wildlife rehabilitator who later diagnosed two of them with life-threatening fungal infections. The sick turtles are expected to make a full recovery. More information about native New York turtle species (PDF) can be found at DEC’s website.

four colorful turtles in an animal carrier
Seized painted turtles on their way to rehabilitation

DLE Mourns the Loss of K9 Deming
On March 12, DEC’s Division of Law Enforcement (DLE) bid farewell to a retired K9 Officer. K9 Deming, named for retired Lieutenant Deming Lindsley, served as ECO Ricky Wood’s partner since 2013. Officer Wood and K9 Deming worked together in DEC Region 3, handling hundreds of wildlife detection, tracking, and spent shell detection cases. ECO Wood and K9 Deming were also deployed with other DLE members to the manhunt for two inmates who escaped from Dannemora State Prison in Clinton County in 2015. K9 Deming was the very first striped bass detection K9 in New York State, helping to locate illegally taken fish. K9 Deming retired from service in 2020 and will be missed

ECO and K9 partner in the woods
ECO Wood and K9 Deming on a case

ECO and K9 partner gettingout of back of truck
ECO Wood and K9 Deming – partners for seven years

Stripers with a Side of Sturgeon – Orange/Rockland/Westchester County
On March 15 and 16, ECOs conducted details along the Hudson River in Orange, Rockland, and Westchester counties in search of anglers taking striped bass out of season. In Orange and Rockland counties, Officers issued 10 tickets and seized six out-of-season striped bass. In Westchester County, ECO Franz observed a vehicle on the side of the road in a closed-off area and decided to investigate. While approaching the vehicle, the ECO discovered the driver with a large garbage bag containing out-of-season striped bass, two catfish, a white perch, and a fish later determined to be a shortnose sturgeon. Shortnose sturgeon are an endangered species and protected under the Endangered Species Act of 1973. Officer Franz ticketed the angler for a host of Environmental Conservation Law violations and donated the striped bass to a local wolf conservation center. The sturgeon is being used for outreach and educational purposes.

Each year, DEC’s Division of Marine Resources monitors the health of New York’s spawning fish population. Using a 500-foot seine net and an electrofishing boat, employees catch spawning striped bass, record their weight, length, and sex, and tag the fish before returning them to the water. Taking striped bass out of season or fishing without a fishing license can affect the data collected, hampering DEC’s fisheries management. Some of the seized striped bass will be utilized during training for fish detection by DEC’s K-9 program.

Two ECOs stand next to multiple striped bass on the pavement
ECOs in Orange and Rockland counties with illegally taken striped bass

ECO holding sturgeon next to multiple striped bass on the pavement
ECO Franz with a Shortnose Sturgeon and 12 out-of-season striped bass

Pig Struck by Ambulance – Sullivan County
On March 16, ECO Parker responded to a report of a pig struck by an ambulance in the town of Fremont near the Pennsylvania border. Officer Parker arrived at the location and found the pig deceased on the side of the road. He collected the animal and transported it to DEC’s Division of Wildlife to conduct a pathology examination to identify the presence of any diseases. Test results showed the pig appeared to be healthy before it was struck, but provided no information about its origins. Officer Parker spoke to a Pennsylvania Game Warden who advised he had received several reports of pig sightings near the New York border the previous week. Any sightings of wild pigs should be reported to DEC Dispatch at 1-844-DEC-ECOs (1-844-332-3267).

ECO kneels next to deceased pig
ECO Parker with pig struck in Sullivan County

Apprehension of Bank Robbery Suspects – Fulton County
On March 26, ECOs assisted with the apprehension of a bank robbery suspect off South Line Road in Saratoga County. Two men entered the NBT bank in Northville, Fulton County, and robbed the bank implying they had a handgun. New York State Police pursued the subject’s vehicle into Saratoga County when the pair took off into the woods off South Line Road. One suspect was captured quickly and ECOs and Sheriff’s Deputies participated with the Troopers in the search for the second suspect, who was caught a short time later.

All I Want for Christmas – Albany County
In Albany County, a hunter recently paid a penalty for taking a deer out of season on Christmas Day in Guilderland. On Dec. 25, 2021, ECO Bevis received reports from a complainant who reported he had heard a single shot from what sounded like a muzzleloader as he stood outside his home. Officer Bevis responded to the nearby property where the shot appeared to have originated and spoke to the homeowner who claimed he hadn’t heard any gunshots that morning. ECO Bevis inquired further, asking the man to see the barn on his property. The homeowner obliged and Officer Bevis checked the inside of the barn without finding anything suspicious. However, on his way out, the ECO noticed a spike buck tucked under the bed of one of the old pick-up trucks parked outside the barn, in an attempt to conceal it. Confronted with this discovery, the homeowner admitted to shooting the buck with a muzzleloader earlier that day, despite knowing the season was closed. ECO Bevis ticketed the hunter for taking deer during the closed season and the defendant paid a $500 penalty. Officer Bevis donated the deer to a local processor for the Venison Donation Coalition.

Deceased deer hidden under back of silver truck
Illegally taken spike buck tucked under bed of pickup truck

Author: Harlem Valley News