Environmental Conservation Police, two bear cubs stranded and motherless next to the Metro-North Railroad in Pawling.

Environmental Conservation Police, two bear cubs stranded and motherless next to the Metro-North Railroad in Pawling.

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.”

Joint Dolphin Recovery Operation – Nassau County
On March 20, ECOs Kochanowski, Michalet, Hilton, and Smith responded to a report of a deceased dolphin on the beach in Kings Point. The ECOs arrived and found the dolphin in an area under construction, making it nearly impossible to remove the dolphin by land. The Officers coordinated with the U.S. Coast Guard Station at Kings Point to deploy a boat for assistance. The ECOs tied a line to the dolphin, pulled it out along a dock, and transferred it to the Coast Guard for towing back to their station. The dolphin was then transported to the Atlantic Marine Conservation Society for necropsy.

ECOs on rocky inlet with deceased dolphin
ECOs Kochanowski and Michalet prepare deceased dolphin for transfer to Coast Guard at Kings Point in Nassau County

Mess in the Median – Orange County
During the month of March, ECOs in Orange and Sullivan counties teamed up with New York State Police and the New York State Police Commercial Vehicle Enforcement Unit (CVEU) to conduct a joint detail checking waste haulers along Route 17 in Orange County. The enforcement detail focused on safety concerns and roadside debris from unsecured waste on transport trucks and resulted in 34 tickets issued over a six-day period. Violations included transporting uncovered solid waste, failure to display registration numbers and transporter names as required, transporting solid waste without tracking documentation, operating a heavy-duty diesel vehicle without a certificate of inspection for emissions, and several equipment-related violations handled by State Police CVEU. All solid waste transported in New York must be covered to ensure that waste reaches its destination without blowing from a truck or trailer.

ECO with State Trooper in front of building
ECO Lovgren with NYSP CVEU and NYSP Trooper

Follow the Light – Westchester County
During the overnight hours of March 26 and 27, ECOs Johnson, Tompkins, Walraven, Wamsley, and Franz conducted a fish compliance detail on the Hudson River, investigating reports of fish taken illegally in Westchester County during the closed striped bass season. The Officers encountered quite a few violations during the detail, with anglers hiding illegally taken striped bass in rocks, under leaves, and even in a potato chip bag.

As the ECOs worked into the night, they spotted a bright light coming from a small boat along the shore of the river. The Officers approached the vessel with three fishermen on board and found five common carp and catfish. The anglers claimed they shot the carp and catfish with bowfishing equipment. However, bowfishing season is only open from May 15 to Sept. 30 for carp and is never legal for catching catfish. By the end of the detail, ECOs seized numerous striped bass, carp, and catfish. A total of 38 tickets were issued, all pending in multiple courts throughout Westchester County.

ECOs with many large fish on the pavement
ECOs with illegally taken fish seized during Hudson River detail in Westchester County

Capsized Canoe – Dutchess County
On March 27, while patrolling in the town of Stanford, ECO Wamsley heard a radio call come in about three individuals struggling in the icy waters of Lake Geneva on Cold Spring Creek after their canoe capsized. On his way to the location, Officer Wamsley heard additional calls of a fourth person unconscious in the water after an attempted rescue. The ECO arrived to find New York State Police and paramedics already at the site attending to the group, all suffering from hypothermia, including the fourth individual who regained consciousness after being pulled from the cold water. ECO Wamsley supplied blankets to the group and helped carry out the most severely injured boater. Luckily, all individuals survived the incident. ECOs remind boaters to be safe and always wear a Personal Floatation Device (PFD) while boating.

kayak balances on top of small water fall
Area in Cold Spring Creek where boaters and attempted rescuer became submerged in frigid waters

Crash Landing – Suffolk County
On March 27, ECO Zullo responded to a call reporting a single-engine airplane crash and fuel leak in Mattituck. Officer Zullo arrived at the location to assist the Southold Police and Mattituck Fire Department and observed fuel leaking from both wings of the plane. The ECO contacted DEC Spills responders who arrived to clean up the contaminated soil. No environmental impacts were reported from the spill and the pilot sustained no injuries in the crash.

small plane in a field next to road
Small aircraft makes crash landing in Suffolk County

small plane that crashed in a field, the nose of the plane shows damage
ECO Zullo observes fuel leaking from wings of small airplane that crashed in Suffolk County

Another Python Off the Street – Suffolk County
On March 29, DEC Division of Law Enforcement (DLE) Investigators tracked down and charged a suspected snake owner in possession of a six-foot-long reticulated python. Tips that led DEC to the owner of the snake stem from a Feb. 14 case where ECOs Kaufherr and Zullo collected a deceased 14-foot reticulated python from the side of a road in Medford. That case received extensive media coverage, resulting in several calls to DEC with information about where the giant snake may have originated. ECOs passed the tips on to DLE’s Bureau of Environmental Crimes Investigators for follow-up. Investigators seized the six-foot python from a residence in West Babylon, although its owner did not own the Medford snake. Reticulated pythons are dangerous constrictors native to Asia, capable of reaching lengths of more than 20 feet, and illegal to possess in New York without a special permit. The subject received a ticket for possessing the snake, returnable to Suffolk County First District Court. The snake was transferred to a reptile center out of state.

large snake on a log
DLE Investigators find six-foot python at residence in Suffolk County

person holding large confiscated snake
DLE Investigators seize six-foot python found at West Babylon residence

Black Bear Express – Dutchess County
On March 31, ECO Franz received reports of two bear cubs stranded and motherless next to the Metro-North Railroad in Pawling. The Officer met with a railroad employee and walked one-half mile down the tracks to where the cubs were reported. ECO Franz eventually found the cubs huddled together in nearby bushes and managed to gain control of the animals, wrapping the pair in a hooded sweatshirt. ECO Franz and the railroad employee then met with wildlife rehabilitators from Friends of the Feathered and Furry Wildlife Center. After an assessment, the cubs were determined to be in good condition and expected to recover.

ECO holding two rescued cubs found near railroad tracks
ECO Franz rescues two bear cubs next to Metro-North Railroad in Dutchess County

Owl is Well – Queens County
ECOs Milliron and Keegan recently responded to a report from the Howard Beach Train Station about an injured owl at the main stairwell to the platform. The Officers arrived at the location and determined the injured bird was a northern saw-whet owl. This species of owl is present in New York City year-round and is one of the most common owls across North America. A Port Authority wildlife specialist worked with the ECOs to get the injured bird safely into a crate and transported to a local wildlife rehabilitator.

small brown owl with one eye closed
Northern Saw-Whet Own found injured on Queens County train station platform

Career Exploration – Suffolk County
At the end of March, ECOs Small and Anderson attended a career exploration event at Sachem East High School in the town of Farmingville. The event included more than 50 organizations providing students with a wide variety of potential careers to pursue. The Officers met with students and provided the high schoolers with descriptions of the ECO job, advice on applying to join the ranks, and information about other career opportunities at DEC.

Two ECOs stand at informational table during career fair
ECOs Small and Anderson at Sachem East High School career event

Social Media Posting Leads to Dumping Charges – Clinton County
On April 2, while conducting fishing compliance checks and enforcement along the shoreline of Lake Champlain, ECO LaCroix observed a large entertainment stand dumped off the side of Stoney Point Road into a swampy area in the Kings Bay Wildlife Management Area (WMA). On a hunch, Officer LaCroix checked Facebook Marketplace to see if anyone had been trying to sell the stand prior to dumping. The Officer found an ad for the entertainment stand offered for free in the village of Rouses Point, adjacent to the town where the stand was dumped. Officer LaCroix responded to the address and through a series of interviews obtained information leading to the individual responsible for dumping the furniture. The ECO issued the subject tickets for unlawful disposal of solid waste and depositing trash/litter on a WMA.

DLE Promotions
A big congratulations to two DLE members on their recent promotions. Lieutenant Daly was promoted to Captain in DEC’s Central Office in Albany. He will be responsible for external affairs, information technology, and administrative functions of the Division. Lieutenant Stevens was promoted to Captain in DEC’s Region 7, which consists of Oswego, Onondaga, Madison, Cayuga, Cortland, Chenango, Broome, Tompkins, and Tioga counties. DEC wishes both Officers the best of luck in their new positions.

ECO pins a pin on another ECO
DLE Director Przyklek promotes Daly to Captain

ECO pinning a pin on another ECO
Director Przyklek promotes Stevens to Captain

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