Environmental Conservation Police on Patrol

Environmental Conservation Police on Patrol

The 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 violations ranging from deer poaching to solid waste dumping, illegal mining, the black market pet trade, and excessive emissions violations.

“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.”

Missing Man Found Unlawfully Harvesting Wild Ginseng – Delaware County
A Delaware County man, reported missing over the summer, may not have wanted to be found. Reported missing on Aug. 31 after failing to return home, multiple law enforcement agencies searched for the man and his vehicle. On Sept. 1, a friend of the missing man spotted the vehicle on a private logging road in the town of Middletown. A Delaware County Sherriff’s Office K9 tracked and located the missing person in good health, harvesting ginseng in a wooded area several hundred yards up the mountain from his vehicle. The man possessed two one-gallon bags of freshly harvested American ginseng. ECO Woodin interviewed the subject to determine if he had permission to harvest on the private property. While the man claimed he received permission years ago, the landowners told ECO Woodin they had not given permission to harvest ginseng on the property. The ECO seized the two bags totaling 41 harvested ginseng roots and charged the man with harvesting ginseng without landowner permission, trespassing, and petit larceny, returnable to the Town of Middletown Court.

New York’s ginseng program and laws exist to ensure the survival of the species in the wild, compliance with all federal and international laws and regulations, and the viability of New York ginseng as a valuable forest product. Wild ginseng can only be collected from Sept. 1 – Nov. 30. For more information, go to DEC’s website.

ECO kneels next to confiscated ginseng plants and a taxidermied bear
ECO Woodin with seized ginseng in Delaware County

Illegal Deer Take – Hamilton County
On Oct. 3, the Hamilton County Sheriff’s Office received a call about a deer shot in the road in the town of Wells. Deputy O’Conner responded and requested ECO assistance. ECO Newell arrived and determined someone had shot the deer with an arrow from ground level. The blood trail led to a nearby home, but the homeowner claimed he didn’t hear or see anything. The Officers continued searching for additional evidence and found the blood trail ended in an area with pumpkins scattered on the ground. ECO Newell confronted the homeowner once more and he admitted to shooting the deer with his bow. The hunter did not have a hunting license at the time the deer was shot. Officer Newell charged the subject with the illegal take of a deer, hunting with the aid of bait, and hunting without a hunting license. ECO Newell donated the deer to the venison donation program.

dead deer on the grass
Illegal deer taken in Hamilton County

Out-of-Season Tautog – Suffolk County
On Oct. 6, while patrolling near Robert Moses State Park, ECOs Perkins and Dickson checked a small fishing access site under the Captree Island Bridge and observed three individuals fishing along the rocky jetties using green crabs, a common bait for tautog/blackfish. During the ECOs’ inspection, which included a check of fishing licenses, the Officers found three blackfish in a bucket next to the anglers and another nine fish tucked away in bags hidden between the rocks. Blackfish season does not start until Oct. 15 on the South Shore, and Oct.11 on the Long Island Sound. The ECOs released four living fish; the rest perished in the bags. The Officers issued six tickets to the group for possessing out-of-season tautog and failure to release without undue harm.

A few days later near Robert Moses State Park, ECO Dickson observed a different group of anglers catching blackfish out of season. In Great South Bay, the ECO observed three individuals fishing off a small inflatable boat. As the Officer approached the trio with members of the U.S. Coast Guard Fire Island, the anglers dumped the contents of a small cooler onto the deck of the boat and covered the contents with the lid of the cooler. ECO Dickson found the blackfish under the lid and issued tickets to the group for catching the fish out of season and fishing without a valid marine fishing license.

During his days-long marine fishing inspections in the area, Officer Dickson issued additional citations for similar charges related to out-of-season fishing. In addition to issuing tickets, the ECO educated anglers about the importance of following New York’s fishing regulations.

ECO measuring fish on the back of a truck
ECO Dickson with out-of-season tautog/blackfish seized during days-long marine patrol

ECO measures many fish during inspection
ECO Perkins inspects out-of-season fish caught on the South Shore

Three fishermen on a small boat in the water
Anglers on inflatable boat illegally catching fish in Great South Bay

Duckling Jailbreak – Suffolk County
ECO Della Rocco recently received a call from employees at the Suffolk County Corrections facility in Riverhead reporting a female duck had hatched seven ducklings in the garden in the center of the buildings, with no escape for the young birds. Jail staff became fed up with feeding and cleaning up after the ducklings and requested the ECO’s assistance in removing and relocating the ducks. Officer Della Rocco caught the ducklings and released them in a nearby pond.

Burning Garbage -Saratoga County
On Oct. 6, ECO Doroski responded to complaints about a homeowner burning something that emitted an awful smell in the town of Galway. The ECO arrived at the location and observed a large fire with various items burning, including metals, plastics, and household garbage. Officer Doroski questioned the homeowner and learned that walls from a recreational camper and additional items from the homeowner’s basement had been added to the fire. The ECO explained New York’s burning regulations and proper disposal of solid waste and unwanted items. After extinguishing the fire, Officer Doroski issued tickets to the homeowner for unlawful disposal of solid waste and open burning of prohibited material.

smoking pile of garbage that was on fire, but now extinguished
Camper walls, garbage, and household items illegally burned

Landscaping Company Busted for Illegal Dumping -Suffolk County
On Oct. 7, after weeks of evading police, ECO Della Rocco tracked down the worker of a landscaping company accused of illegal dumping. Trail cameras placed by a Pine Barrens Enforcement Agent captured the worker from Avant Gardens Landscaping dumping two trailer loads of landscaping debris. The agent sent photos of the illegal dumping to ECOs who opened an investigation. Officers ordered the employee to clean up the site and provide DEC Division of Law Enforcement Acting Captain Gadomski with photos of the cleaned-up area and dump receipts showing the legal disposal of the debris. In addition, the owner of Avant Gardens met with Acting Captain Gadomski, signed a DEC Order on Consent, and paid a $750 penalty.

Camera still of a small dump truck dumping debris in a forest area
Illegal dumping of landscaping debris caught on Pine Barrens game camera

Lost Dog Rescued – Saratoga County
On Oct. 7, while patrolling at Daketown State Forest in the town of Greenfield, ECO Doroski observed a dog roaming around without its owner. The ECO persuaded the pup to come closer and made a temporary leash until he could locate the owner. A short time later, the owner appeared and was reunited with his dog. The owner said he was hunting afield earlier that morning when the dog broke free and ran off.

small dog sitting in the shade under an ECO vehicle
Lost dog waits patiently for its owner at Daketown State Forest

Operation Green Night – Orleans County
Between Oct. 7 and Oct. 9, ECOs from across the state participated in ‘Operation Green Night,’ a detail targeting illegal salmon fishing in Orleans County. The Officers used marked and unmarked units, thermal and night vision equipment, and undercover tactics to conduct compliance checks. The ECOs responded to several complaints of snagging, trespassing, and illegal fishing. During the three-day detail, ECOs issued multiple violations across the county for failure to have a freshwater fishing license, illegal tackle, failure to release foul-hooked fish, and trespassing in restricted areas.

picture of view through trees during illegal fishing detail
View from above Orleans County during ‘Operation Green Night’

Too Early for Crossbows – Genesee County
On Oct. 8, the LeRoy Police Department discovered an antlered deer in the bed of a truck during a traffic stop. When the operator failed to produce a tag for the deer, LeRoy Police requested ECO assistance. ECO Fuerch responded and observed an eight-point deer in the bed of the truck with a wound consistent with an arrow blade. The ECO also located a compound bow and crossbow in the rear of the vehicle. At the time, crossbow season had not yet started. The driver admitted to illegally taking the deer with a crossbow in the town of Caledonia, and produced a valid hunting license and tags. However, the subject did not possess an appropriate bow/muzzleloader either sex tag. Officer Fuerch ticketed the man for failing to tag deer as required, taking a deer during closed season, and killing wildlife except as permitted. The charge of taking deer during closed season carries an automatic hunting license revocation upon conviction.

dead deer and crossbow on truck bed
Eight-point buck taken with crossbow out of season

Illegal Bear Take – Ulster County
On Oct. 8, ECOs Walraven and Johnson received reports that someone had illegally killed a bear in the town of Rochester. The complainant said a local hunter shot the female bear with a bow and then, with two accomplices, tracked the animal into the woods and killed it with a shotgun. The hunter posted several pictures of himself and the two accomplices with the bear and shotgun on social media. The caller indicated the same bear was seen in the area with its cubs eating out of trash dumpsters on the property. ECOs interviewed the hunter who admitted to shooting the bear as it was feeding on trash and confirmed he and his accomplices had killed it. The Officers seized the bear’s hide and meat and issued the hunter several tickets for unlawful take of black bear, hunting with the aid of a pre-established bait pile, and possessing a firearm afield during the special archery season. The ECOs tracked down and charged one accomplice and ticketed him for hunting with a revoked license and possessing a firearm afield during the special archery season. Charges are pending against the third accomplice. The case is due to be heard in the Town of Rochester Court in November.

Two ECOs kneel next to dead bear hunted illegally
ECOs Johnson and Walraven with bear illegally taken in Ulster County

Plane Crash – Fulton County
On Oct. 9, ECO Pasciak responded along with first responders to a small plane crash on the Great Sacandaga Lake in the town of Northampton. Fortunately, the pilot and two passengers survived the crash, and only one passenger required medical attention. The pilot advised that a crosswind caused the plane to crash and flip upside down, just slightly above water during an attempted takeoff from a sandbar. The Fulton County Emergency Management Director, Northville Fire Department, New York State Police, Fulton County Sherriff’s Deputies, local EMS, and employees from Thompson’s Marina also responded to the crash to assist. Officer Pasciak notified DEC Spill Response Staff to investigate any potential fuel or petroleum spills from the incident before providing the pilot with a courtesy ride home. The plane was safely removed, no fuel oil was spilled, and the investigation continues.

small plane that crashed on the shoreline of a lake
Small plane crash on Great Sacandaga Lake

Duck Thief Caught – Saratoga County
On Oct. 9, ECO Shaw received a call from the City of Saratoga Springs Police Department about an individual caught on camera taking two ducks from Congress Park, a longtime home for ducks during the warm weather months. Saratoga Police passed along the suspect’s vehicle description and plate number from the camera footage, allowing Officer Shaw to quickly locate and speak to the individual. When asked why he took the ducks, the man responded quickly that he did his research and found nothing that said he couldn’t take them. Officer Shaw corrected him on Environmental Conservation Laws regarding wildlife and directed the subject to release the ducks back to Congress Park unharmed. The ECO issued the man two tickets for unlawfully taking and possessing protected wildlife.

Illegal Deer Take at Apartment Complex – Essex County
On Oct. 11, ECO Buffa received a complaint about an individual unlawfully hunting over bait behind an apartment complex in the town of Wilmington. The complainant advised the hunter took a seven-point buck and a doe on the morning of Oct. 1, and an eight-point buck the week before. Other witnesses reported seeing the individual shooting a crossbow from the breezeway of the apartment complex and loading the deer into his truck. ECOs Buffa and Favreau responded, but the suspect was not home at the time of the call. With no information on his whereabouts, DEC Dispatcher McCasland pulled up some associated addresses to assist in finding him. After a short time, ECO Fadden located the hunter in a neighboring county. The Officers met and interviewed the suspect who admitted to shooting all three deer with a crossbow over bait. He even admitted to shooting the doe in the early morning hours from his bedroom window. ECO Buffa issued 11 tickets to the hunter for illegally taking wildlife, hunting with a crossbow out of season, discharging a crossbow within 250 feet of a residence, hunting with the aid of bait, and improperly tagging deer. ECO Favreau also ticketed an individual who lent the hunter his tag. All three deer were seized and donated to the Venison Donation Coalition to help feed needy families in New York.

ECO stands with dead hanging deer and antlers
ECO Buffa with illegally taken deer in Essex County

Well, Hello Deer – Albany County
On Oct. 12, ECO Hameline responded to a residence in the city of Albany for reports of a deer stuck in an abandoned well. The homeowner advised he found the deer when he heard commotion while doing yardwork. Officer Hameline arrived and observed the deer stuck in what appeared to be a sinkhole, not an abandoned well. The ECO retrieved his catch pole from his vehicle and lifted the deer to safety without incident. Officer Hameline then contacted the city to have the hole filled.

photo looking down into a sinkhole, where a deer stands at the bottom
Deer stuck in sinkhole in Albany

New York City Fill on Farmland – Orange County
On Oct. 13, ECOs spotted a tri-axle dump truck associated with ongoing illegal dumping activity in Orange County. The Officers followed the truck to its destination and approached the driver. A second truck from the same company was already on-site, attempting to dump, and an investigation revealed both trucks transported restricted fill material from New York City to a farm in the town of Warwick. The fill material included construction and demolition debris with asphalt, brick, concrete, ceramic tile, plastic debris, lumber, and metal. The trucking company and drivers face multiple charges related to the illegal transportation and dumping of restricted material. DEC encourages the public to confirm the quality of fill material purchased/secured prior to accepting it from a contractor.

large truck bed filled with rocks and other material
Illegally transported fill in bed of truck

‘Trunk or Treat’ Event – Niagara County
On Oct. 15, ECO Scheer attended a ‘Trunk or Treat’ event at the Niagara County Community College Campus in the hamlet of Sanborn. The ECO provided some tasty treats to local children dressed in their Halloween best and posed for pictures. The New York Conservation Officers Association (NYCOA) generously donated the treats and a local farmer donated hay bales and corn stalks for decoration. The event, organized by the Niagara County Sherriff’s Office, Niagara County Emergency Services Unit, and participants from all Niagara County emergency responders, was well attended.

ECO stands with kids dressed up as animals during halloween event
ECO Scheer with Trunk or Treaters

New York Youth Hunts Underway – Multiple Counties
Over the past few months, ECOs have assisted in several youth hunting events to educate young people about the benefits of hunting and the responsibilities that come with it.

On Sept. 17, in Jefferson County, ECOs hosted the 13th annual Youth Waterfowl Hunt in the North Country. Nine young people joined the Officers hunting ducks. A few days later at the second annual Youth Pheasant Hunt on Ashland Flats Wildlife Management Area, young hunters received assistance from volunteers with trained bird dogs to help with their hunts. ECOs thank local volunteers, the Sackets Harbor Sportsmen’s Club, the National Wild Turkey Foundation, and NYCOA for helping make these hunts successful events. If interested in participating in next year’s sponsored Youth Hunts, please reach out to the DEC Law Enforcement Office in Watertown at 315-785-2231.

ECOs and youth hunters hold banner and show off hunting success during event
Youth waterfowl and pheasant hunts held in Jefferson County

In St. Lawrence County, ECOs recently partnered with the Massena chapter of the National Wild Turkey Federation and DEC Wildlife employees to host a youth waterfowl and pheasant hunt at Wilson Hill Wildlife Management Area. Sixteen young hunters, ages 12 to 15, participated in the organized hunt. Many successfully harvested ducks and pheasants. Youth waterfowl and pheasant hunts are free to participants thanks to the generosity and donations from NYCOA, St. Lawrence County Sportsmen Federation, Potsdam and Massena Elks clubs, Wal-Mart, Running’s, and Tractor Supply.

ECOs and youth hunters pose for a group photo after hunting event
Youth waterfowl and pheasant hunts held in St. Lawrence County

ECOs and youth hunters stand with waterfowl and pheasants they hunted during event
Young hunters participate in youth waterfowl and pheasant hunting events in St. Lawrence County

In DEC Regions 8 and 9, ECOs Holzle, Koepf, and Lieutenant Ver Hague instructed youth on waterfowl identification before heading afield for a youth hunt. In addition to identifying waterfowl, participants learned about the rules, regulations, and ethics hunters must know to ensure everyone’s safety. Those young hunters got an opportunity to show off what they learned during a waterfowl hunting event at the Tonawanda Wildlife Management Area on Oct. 1. Participants set up decoys and practiced calling methods to pull off some impressive harvests of blue-winged teal, green-winged teal, and wood ducks. After the hunt, the Officers showed the youth hunters how to properly clean waterfowl for consumption.

ECOs and youth hunters stand behind table with waterfowl and pheasants they hunted on it
Officers educated and assisted youth hunters at events in DEC Regions 8 and 9

The eighth annual Finger Lakes Regional Youth Deer Hunt took place on Oct. 8 and 9 at the former Seneca Army Depot – now Deer Haven Park, LLC. Twenty-four youth hunters participated in this year’s event, which began with a mandatory pre-hunt instructional and shooting range session where the young hunters got a refresher on firearm safety and discussed hunter ethics. Over the course of the weekend, the youth hunters harvested 21 whitetails. Finger Lakes Community College students from the Natural Resources Conservation Program assisted with a variety of tasks ranging from serving food during the event to assisting with deer aging, weighting, and field dressing. The harvest numbers for this youth hunt were impressive and the event fostered a combination of conservation, ethics, safety, and appreciation for wildlife and habitat. Thanks to a generous landowner and the tireless dedication and support of the participating ECOs, volunteers, and sponsors, this year’s event was an overwhelming success. Sponsors included Deer Haven Park, Bass Pro Shops, Velocity Outdoors, O.F. Mossberg and Sons, Yates County Federation of Sportsmen’s Clubs, Wayne County Federation of Sportsmen’s Clubs, Seneca County Federation of Sportsmen’s Clubs, NYCOA, Brian Pragle Custom Woodworking and Skull Mounts, BSA – Camp Babcock Hovey, Schrader Farms Meat Market, National Deer Association, Whitetails Unlimited – Tobyhanna Creek Chapter, Pat’s Pizzeria, Warren Fredericks, Matt Lochner, and DEC.

ECOs and large group of youth hunters take photo with the deer they hunted during event
2022 Finger Lakes Regional Youth Deer Hunt and participants including DEC Captain Powell, Captain VerHague, Lt. Lochner, Lt. VerHague, Lt. Thomas, Investigator Angotti, Investigator Crain, ECO Dalecki, ECO Gross, ECO Baker, ECO Muchow, ECO Rich, ECO Powers, ECO Oliver, ECO Johnston, ECO Jankowski, ECO Grisolini, ECO Sincebaugh, Lewis Martin, Tim Martin, Kyle Martin, Jason Pollack, Phil Huber, Brent Ford, Greg Flood, Chuck Olin, Robin Phenes, Ashlee Zschoche, and Donna Richardson.

To contact an ECO to report an environmental crime or to report an incident, call 1-844-DEC-ECOS for 24-hour dispatch or email central.dispatch@dec.ny.gov (for non-urgent violations).

Author: Harlem Valley News