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.”

Drinking, Driving, and Hunting – Onondaga County

On Feb. 15, after a weeks-long investigation, ECOs charged two subjects in Onondaga County with more than a dozen violations related to a hunting incident and drunk driving arrest in January. On Jan. 25, the Onondaga County Sherriff’s Office (OCSO) notified Lieutenant Colesante about a spotlighting complaint that ended with a driver arrested for driving while intoxicated on Route 20 in the town of Lafayette. The allegedly intoxicated subject had a dead deer and loaded firearms in his vehicle at the time of the stop. ECO Thomas, assigned to investigate the matter, reviewed OCSO reports, interviewed witnesses, and gathered evidence from the location to confirm the deer was taken at night from the vehicle with a spotlight. After weeks of attempting to locate the subject and their companion, ECOs charged two individuals with a total of 16 violations including hunting while intoxicated, possessing loaded firearms in a motor vehicle, taking deer with the aid of an artificial light, and taking deer within 500 feet of a residence (all misdemeanors), along with other violations. Both subjects received appearance tickets returnable to the Town of Lafayette Court.

Large deer in the truck of a vehicle
Dead deer stashed in trunk after late night poaching incident in town of Lafayette

Erratic Fisher Spurs Emergency Response – Seneca County

On Feb. 17, ECOs Gross and Levanway responded to a call from a teller at the Lyons National Bank in Seneca Falls reporting a fisher running laps around the building. When the ECOs arrived at the bank, the teller explained the fisher had been running around the building for two to three hours, and had tried to enter the building at one point. The Officers searched the area and located the erratic animal running near the roadway. The animal’s behavior and lack of fear around people prompted the Officers to humanely euthanize it. The ECOs submitted the animal to the Cornell Wildlife Health Lab for testing and necropsy.

Trail Cameras Tell the Tale – Seneca County

After months of investigation, a deer poaching case in the town of Romulus involving bait and trail cameras was resolved. The case started in November 2022, when a hunter spotted the cape and large antlers of a unique white deer at an Oswego taxidermy shop. The hunter recognized the deer from a popular hunting area in Seneca County two hours away. Hunters frequently reported seeing the deer on private land and trail cameras in the area. Fearing the deer was poached on the private land, the hunter and landowner contacted DEC to help determine whether someone harvested the animal illegally. ECOs McCabe and Lieutenant Thomas investigated and tracked down the hunter who took the deer on a piece of land next to the private property. The hunter walked the Officers to the location where he took the deer, passing two bags of empty deer feed on the way. The hunter claimed he didn’t know how the bags of feed were placed at the location, but trail cameras told a different story. Photos on the cameras showed the hunter and a friend placing feed at the base of a tree and the white deer eating from the pile multiple times. Officer McCabe also found two additional bait piles on the property. When confronted with the evidence, the hunter admitted to placing the bait and using it to take the white deer. He is charged with illegally taking deer, hunting with the aid of bait, and intentionally feeding deer. The case was recently settled via a Consent Order, with the subject paying a penalty of $650 and the antlers turned over to DEC.

large deer antlers on a rock, ECO vehicle in the background
Seized white deer rack

Black and white still from a camera feed of a large deer grazing
White deer captured on trail camera eating from a bait pile in Seneca County

Teaming Up to Check Trucks – Suffolk County

On Feb. 22, ECOs Carpenter and Anderson teamed up with Suffolk County Police Motor Carriers, the State Department of Transportation (DOT), and Suffolk County Department of Weights and Measures to hold a truck inspection checkpoint in Huntington Station. By the end of the day, Officers issued 39 tickets, including 11 Environmental Conservation Law charges. DOT also put four trucks out of service during the detail.

ECO vehicle in a parking lot with other trucks during checkpoint
ECOs protecting air quality in Suffolk County at truck inspection checkpoint

Duck, Duck, Ticket – Ulster County

On Feb. 25, ECO Johnson received a Snapchat video from a colleague showing an individual on film sneaking up on two ducks swimming in a pond and firing four shots from a gun, killing the ducks. With waterfowl seasons for the region closed, Officer Johnson went to the subject’s residence, which is also the location of the shooting, to conduct an interview. The subject admitted to shooting the ducks while a friend videotaped the incident. ECO Johnson ticketed the subject for taking waterfowl out of season, hunting without a license, taking a migratory game bird without a federal duck stamp, taking waterfowl with an unplugged shotgun, and taking waterfowl with lead shot.

K9 Handler Locates Handgun – Sullivan County

On Feb. 28, ECO Wood responded to a crime scene in Kiamesha Lake to assist Sullivan County Sherriff’s Office in finding a firearm tossed by a fleeing felon during a foot chase. Veteran K9 Officer Wood deployed K9 CJ to find the gun. Due to conditions at the location, K9 CJ could not find the weapon. Officer Wood decided to give it another try using his metal detector after determining the most likely location the felon would have discarded the weapon. The ECO zeroed in on a nearby ditch and his metal detector alerted him to an object under the snow. ECO Wood and a Deputy Sheriff carefully uncovered the loaded .45 caliber handgun. The subject is facing several charges in Sullivan County.

Keep Your Distance – Suffolk County

ECOs in Suffolk County spent a few days providing security for seals. On March 1, Officers Dickson, Anderson, and Perkins responded to a call from Suffolk County Central Dispatch of a potentially injured seal on a boat ramp in Babylon Village. The ECOs arrived at the location and contacted the New York Marine Rescue Center to report the seal’s condition and behavior. Experts at the rescue center, who determined it was likely a male harp seal visiting from arctic waters, advised that these types of seals stress easily. When stressed, the seals tend to consume sand and rocks that can damage their digestive systems. ECOs and Village of Babylon Code Enforcement set up a perimeter 150 feet around the boat launch to protect the seal from curious bystanders who had gathered to take pictures. On March 3, the arctic seal was transferred to the rescue facility and treated for dehydration.

Seal laying on a concrete boat ramp next to a dock
Arctic harp seal on Babylon Village boat ramp

ECO vehicle parked in parking lot near boat ramp where seal was seen
ECOs set up perimeter around arctic harp seal

Sunbathing Seal – Suffolk County

On March 5, ECO Dickson received reports from the New York Marine Rescue Center of an incident involving a seal sunbathing at Gilgo Beach. According to the complaint, a bystander had attempted to put a dog collar on the seal and drag it back to the ocean. Officer Dickson arrived and canvased the beach for the subject with the dog collar but could not find the offender. The ECO established a security perimeter around the seal, allowing it to sunbathe in peace, without disturbance. The Officer also documented the condition of the seal and sent his findings back to the rescue center. To protect seals or other wildlife spotted on the beach, a minimum of 150-feet is the recommended distance for safe viewing. For more information on avoiding close encounters with marine mammals visit DEC’s website.

Small seal sunbathing on the sandy beach, ECO vehicle in the background
ECO ensuring safety of seal sunbathing at Gilgo Beach in Suffolk County

ECO Safely Removes Elderly Couple from Car Fire – Delaware County

On March 7, while patrolling State Route 206 in the hamlet of Downsville, ECO Doig encountered a vehicle pulled over on the side of the road. As the Officer approached, he noticed flames shooting out near the exhaust and gas tank of the vehicle. ECO Doig quickly notified Delaware County 911 and immediately approached the vehicle to safely remove two elderly individuals from the car. Officer Doig then retreated to his patrol vehicle, grabbed his fire extinguisher, and put out the fire. The Downsville Fire Department arrived a short time later and determined the vehicle had a leaking gas tank and could have become engulfed in flames at any moment. The couple, unaware the car caught fire, were appreciative of ECO Doig’s quick response.

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