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 2022, Environmental Conservation Police Officers (ECOs) and Investigators across the state responded to more than 25,600 calls and worked on cases that resulted in nearly 13,800 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 work hard each day to serve their communities, protect our precious natural resources, and safeguard public health, while ensuring those who break the state’s stringent Environmental Conservation Laws are held accountable,” DEC Commissioner Basil Seggos said. “In partnership with local, state, and federal law enforcement, DEC looks forward to continuing to support the work our ECOs perform in every corner of New York.”

Something’s Fishy at the Seafood Facility – Suffolk County
On Jan. 4, ECOs Kaufherr, McGhee, Paschke, and Zullo conducted a compliance check on a seafood facility in Cutchogue. During the inspection, the Officers found a mule deer head in the facility’s freezer, along with two coolers full of deer meat and a coyote pelt. The ECOs conducted several interviews and determined the mule deer was harvested in Montana, a state with increased cases of Chronic Wasting Disease (CWD). CWD is a highly contagious and fatal disease affecting cervid populations including deer, moose, and elk. The Officers seized the deer head and ticketed the individual who had imported it with possessing deer parts from another state. ECOs then sent the deer head to an incinerator to prevent the potential spread of CWD. For more information on CWD and restrictions to prevent its spread, visit DEC’s website.

two officers holding mule deer head
ECOs McGhee and Zullo with seized Mule deer head

New York Boat Show Weekend – New York County
It’s not yet boating season, but that didn’t stop boating and fishing enthusiasts from across the state from attending the New York Boat Show at the Javits Center in New York City from Jan. 25 – 29. In addition to checking out the boats on display, attendees visited DEC’s Marine Fisheries booth. ECOs were on hand throughout the show to answer questions about saltwater fishing regulations and other maritime issues.

eco speaking to a person at the NYSDEC booth
ECO Keegan fielding questions at New York Boat Show

ECOs Assist with Search for Missing Person – Niagara County
On Jan. 26, ECOs Scheer, Holzle, Mathis, and Powers helped the Niagara County Sherriff’s Office search for a missing elderly subject with Alzheimer’s disease. Lieutenant Ver Hague received the initial call from the Chief Deputy of the Niagara County Sherriff’s Office requesting that DEC’s Division of Law Enforcement deploy ATVs and a drone to help with the search. ECOs Scheer and Holzle conducted ATV patrols while ECO Mathis operated the drone with Officer Powers acting as a spotter. The subject was located deceased later that morning.

ECO on atv in snow
ECO Scheer on patrol, assisting in search for missing person

Thompson’s Lake Ice Rescue – Albany County
On Jan. 27, ECO Hameline responded to Thompson’s Lake in the town of Berne after receiving a report that two dogs had fallen through the ice. Once he arrived, Officer Hameline learned one of the dogs had already managed to free itself from the water, while the other dog, a German shepherd, remained trapped in the broken ice. A member of the New York State Flood Incident Strike Team, a multi-agency team trained in swift water, ice, and rope rescues, ECO Hameline donned water rescue gear and entered the frigid waters with assistance from members of the Albany County Sheriff’s Office, New York State Park Police, and East Berne Fire Department. The Officer successfully rescued the dog from the freezing waters and Sherriff’s Deputies safely returned the animal to its owners.

Too Close for Comfort – Washington County
On Jan. 28, ECO Thibodeau received a complaint about a firearm going off near a residence in the town of White Creek. Witnesses reported hearing three shots a few minutes prior to observing an individual dragging a coyote across a front lawn and loading it into a vehicle that quickly left the area. ECOs Krug and LaCroix interviewed witnesses and brought in K9 Web to help canvass the area. Residents provided information that led the Officers to the responsible party, who admitted to shooting the coyote. The ECOs charged the subject with discharging a firearm within 500 feet of a dwelling and the illegal take of protected wildlife. The ECOs seized the coyote for evidence and the case is pending in White Creek Town Court.

eco and K9 in snow
K9 Web and ECO LaCroix search for spent shell casings

Dolphin Washes Up on Egypt Beach – Suffolk County
On Jan. 29, ECOs Della Rocco, Vandenbos, and Zullo responded to a complaint of a deceased dolphin that had washed up on Egypt Beach in Easthampton. When the Officers arrived, they found the seven-foot common dolphin and transported it to the Ridge Conservation Area to have a necropsy conducted to determine the cause of death in cooperation with partners at the Atlantic Marine Conservation Society (AMSEAS). Assisting biologists to conduct this important research helps ECOs better understand how to help preserve marine life populations.

two ecos with dolphin in sand
ECOs Vandenbos and Zullo with common dolphin washed up in Easthampton

Humpback Whale Washes up at Lido Beach – Nassau County
On Jan. 30, Lieutenant Reilly, along with ECOs Dickson and Smith, responded to reports of a humpback whale found deceased at Lido Beach Town Park. The Officers spent the day securing the scene with the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s (NOAA) Office of Law Enforcement, Nassau County Police, Town of Hempstead Bay Constables, and Town of Hempstead Public Safety. The ECOs also performed public outreach throughout the day and coordinated plans for a necropsy and burial with AMSEAS. On Jan. 31, Lt. Reilly and ECOs Pabes and Giarratana continued site security and observed the necropsy and burial process. The 40-year-old male humpback whale was 41 feet long and weighed 14.5 tons. NOAA officials determined it was likely killed by a vessel strike.

ECO Smith and NOAA federal agent assessing the 41-foot humpback whale

Little Bear Gets a Second Chance – Herkimer County
On Jan. 31, ECO Howe responded to a complaint of a black bear cub lingering around a residence in the town of Salisbury. The resident reported the young bear had been in the area for five days with no signs of its mother. The cub appeared malnourished and unlikely to survive on its own. Officer Howe safely captured the bear and transported it to Friends of the Feathered and Furry Wildlife Center in Hunter, a licensed wildlife rehabilitation center, where it will receive care and treatment until it can be released back into the wild.

eco gholding bear cub
ECO Howe with black bear cub rescued from a residential neighborhood in Herkimer County

Illegal Deer on the Last Day – Suffolk County
On the evening of Jan. 31, the last day of the special firearm season in Suffolk County, ECOs Day and Boyes received a call about a hunter using a shotgun in an area closed to shotgun hunting. The complainant reported hearing one shot that evening and observing the subject placing bait near a tree stand. Both the subject and complainant left the scene by the time Officers arrived, but the ECOs followed drag marks to a fresh gut pile at the location described by the complainant earlier in the day. The next day, the Officers returned to the area and found a trail camera and a spent shotgun shell near the bait pile. Over the next few days, the ECOs tracked down the subject using evidence that included photographs posted on social media. When confronted with evidence that included part of a deer tail in the bed of his truck, the hunter admitted to shooting the deer with a shotgun without a town permit and over bait. Officers ticketed the subject for illegally taking a deer, hunting deer over bait, failing to tag a deer, and hunting deer during the Suffolk County special firearm season without a town permit.

deer tail on car mat
Deer tail found in hunter’s truck bed in Suffolk County

Zimmer Club Annual Conservation Dinner – Richmond County
On Feb. 4, ECOs Farner, Currey, Veloski, Rappold, and Traynor attended the Zimmer Club Annual Conservation Dinner. The Zimmer Club was founded on Staten Island in 1926 by Andrew E. Zimmer. Zimmer’s passion for protecting wildlife and the residents of Staten Island resulted in New York State appointing him the first ECO registered in Richmond County. The Zimmer Club has grown over the decades, focusing on conservation, protection, and preservation of wildlife on Staten Island. During the event, ECOs answered questions and discussed conservation laws and practices to protect wildlife species statewide and shared stories with club members.

ecos standing next to each other
Left to Right: ECO Farner, ECO Currey, Zimmer Club Member Mark Yuknek, Staten Island Deputy Borough President Edward Burke, ECO Veloski, ECO Rappold, ECO Traynor

ECOs Named Sportsmen of the Year – Oneida County
On Feb. 4, Region 7 ECO Grisolini and Region 6 ECO Lakeman received the Central New York Sportsmen of the Year award from the CNY Sportsman Show in the city of Oneida. The award recognizes those who support and participate in hunting and mentoring opportunities for women and youth. ECOs Grisolini and Lakeman have dedicated countless hours of instruction and education during their careers to encourage people to take up New York’s rich hunting tradition. Both Officers were also instrumental in the success of youth turkey and waterfowl hunts in Oneida and Madison counties and active in connecting ECOs with the communities they serve. Congratulations to both Officers on their well-deserved awards.

two ecos holding awards
ECOs Lakeman (left) and Grisolino (right) with their awards

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