DEC Environmental Conservation Officer Highlights

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DEC Environmental Conservation Officer Highlights

ECO Actions for Mid-May

New York State Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) Environmental Conservation Officers (ECOs) enforce the 71 Chapters of NY Environmental Conservation Law, protecting fish and wildlife and preserving environmental quality across New York.

In 2016, the 286 ECOs across the state responded to 26,400 calls and issued 22,150 tickets for crimes ranging from deer poaching to corporate toxic dumping and illegal mining, black market pet trade, and excessive emissions violations.

"From Montauk Point to Mount Marcy, from Brooklyn to Buffalo, the ECOs patrolling our state are the first line of defense in protecting New York's environment and our natural resources, ensuring that they exist for future generations of New Yorkers," said Commissioner Basil Seggos. "They work long and arduous hours, both deep in our remote wildernesses and in the tight confines of our urban landscapes. Although they don't receive much public fanfare, the work of our ECOs is critical to achieving DEC's mission to protect and enhance our environment."

Recent missions carried out by ECOs include:

Another Truck in a River - Lewis County

On the evening of May 10, ECO Fay Fuerch was contacted by the Lewis County Sheriff's Office for assistance with a vehicle in the Black River. State Police were at the scene of an accident in which a vehicle struck a tree, traveled down an embankment, and slipped into the river. The owner escaped through a window just before the vehicle sank. He was subsequently arrested for driving while intoxicated. Due to high water levels and unsafe conditions, ECO Fuerch delayed the recovery of the vehicle until water conditions improved for divers to work safely. ECO Fuerch coordinated with a local dive team and towing company to recover the vehicle and advised the owner of the plan. The owner decided to attempt to recover the vehicle with his friends' assistance. On the evening of May 14, ECO Fuerch was contacted by the Lewis County Sheriff's Office and was advised that the owner was on scene attempting to recover the vehicle. The operator had asked a nearby farmer to use his tractor to assist with the removal, but the farmer declined and called the Sheriff. Upon ECO Fuerch's arrival, she found the vehicle pulled halfway up the embankment, but the owner had left the scene. A towing company was contacted to finish the removal of the vehicle and the owner was charged with disposing of a substance injurious to fish and wildlife in water and disturbing the bed and banks of a protected stream. The tickets are returnable to the Town of Lowville Court on June 15.

The truck recovery effort, halfway complete.
The truck recovery effort, halfway complete.

Everyone Was Catching Fish at I FISH NY Event - Bronx County

On May 11, 3rd and 4th grade students from P.S. 41 Elementary School participated in an I Fish NY event at Van Cortland Park in the Bronx. ECO Charles Eyler joined Melissa Cohen and staff from DEC's Region 2 Office to introduce the students to the joys of fishing. A perfect day of hungry fish and worms on hooks enticed some large sunfish and largemouth bass to bite. The excitement and smiles on the children's faces showed that the exposure to nature and encouragement from DEC staff, parents, and teachers helped to foster an appreciation for wildlife and conservation.

ECO Charles Eyler and an excited young angler.
ECO Charles Eyler and an excited young angler.

Duck Family Relocation - Onondaga County

On May 15, ECO Don Damrath responded to a call reporting a family of ducklings stuck in a storm drain at the corner of Harrison and Townsend streets in the city of Syracuse. ECO Damrath arrived at the scene within minutes, and with the help of a resident Good Samaritan, Syracuse Police Officers, and workers from the Syracuse Department of Public Works, they rescued 12 ducklings and their mother from the storm drain. ECO Damrath placed all of the animals in one transport container. He then traveled to Onondaga Lake Park and safely released the mother and her ducklings.

The mother and her 12 ducklings before being released.
The mother and her 12 ducklings before being

Wildlife Week - Chautauqua County

During the week of May 15, ECO Jerry Kinney received several complaints of wildlife in need of assistance in Chautauqua County. One call came from the town of Carroll reporting an injured duck. However, ECO Kinney found that the duck was actually a newly hatched and motherless duckling. The duckling was kept in a warm environment overnight until it could be transported to a wildlife rehabilitator the following day. The second call was from the town of Pomfret. The caller stated that a fawn had come out of a ditch next to State Rt. 20 and proceeded to lay down in the middle of the roadway. A Good Samaritan removed the fawn from the roadway and took it home. A neighbor called ECO Kinney to explain what happened and the officer arrived at the residence a short time later to take possession of the fawn, which he transported to a rehabilitator that specializes in deer.

Two fawns being cared for by a wildlife rehabilitator.
Two fawns being cared for by a wildlife

Replacing an Eagle's Nest - Cortland County

On May 19, a day after thunderstorms with damaging winds passed through the town of Preble, ECO Tom Fernandes responded to a call of a bald eagle's nest on the ground. Expecting to recover carcasses due to the 60-foot fall, ECO Fernandes was surprised to find two unscathed eaglets very much alive. He contacted Bonnie Parton from the Division of Wildlife and together the two devised a plan to attach a large wicker basket as high as possible in the nesting tree to serve as a replacement nest. DEC's Division of Operations brought a long ladder and helped secure the basket in the tree. The eaglets were banded and placed in the basket to await the return of the adult eagle.

ECO Fernandes with young bald eagle.
ECO Fernandes with the immature eagles.

Young bald eagles in their new nest.

The Saga of the "Bucket Head" Bear - Broome County

On April 24, ECO Andrew McCormick received a call from a concerned citizen in Kirkwood who said she had a black bear in her yard with a bucket stuck on its head. More calls came in that day from people claiming to have seen the same bear. ECO McCormick contacted wildlife biologist Courtney LaMere, who suggested a bear trap be brought to the area to catch the bear. DEC staff placed two bear traps in the area, and over the next three weeks, three different bears were captured, but none turned out to be the "Bucket Head" bear. Calls continued to come in reporting sightings of the bear in the area. ECOs and DEC wildlife staff continued the search over the next several weeks. On May 19, a resident contacted the DEC Kirkwood office and said the "Bucket Head" bear was in their backyard. ECO McCormick and wildlife biologists immediately responded to the location, but by the time they arrived, the bear was gone. Over the next six hours they tracked the bear and located it in a backyard on Haskins Road. The bear was successfully tranquilized and the plastic food container was removed. The bucket turned out to be a clear container used to hold bulk pretzels or cheese puffs. ECO McCormick and staff carried the bear out of the woods and placed it in a trap to recover overnight. The following morning, ECO McCormick and Bureau of Wildlife employees successfully released the bear. The bear made a full recovery and shot out of the trap like a cannonball, seeming no worse for wear.

Bear with bucket stuck on its head.

ECO Andrew McCormick and DEC Bureau of Wildlife Staff removed the plastic bucket from the black bear.
ECO Andrew McCormick and DEC Bureau of Wildlife Staff
removed the plastic bucket from the black bear.

Caught on Camera - Steuben County

On the morning of May 20, ECO Matthew Baker received a 911 call about trespassing in the town of Cohocton. ECO Baker responded and spoke with the complainant about turkey hunters trespassing on posted land. The complainant said his friend had been turkey hunting and saw two other individuals hunting turkey on the property. The trespassers shot at a turkey close to where the friend was hunting and when the trespassers realized they were caught on camera, they took off running and left their car in the woods. ECO Baker, with help from State Police, tracked down the owner of the car. Upon being interviewed, both individuals admitted to trespassing and shooting at a turkey. ECO Shawn Dussault and K-9 Ski were called in to assist with locating evidence and successfully detected the wad cup near where the shot was taken. Tickets were issued for attempted illegal take of turkey and trespassing on posted property.

Trespassing turkey hunters caught on a trail camera.
Trespassing turkey hunters caught on a trail camera.

A Donation for the Dogs - Dutchess County

On May 21, Robert Ahlers presented DEC K-9 Unit Tech Sgt. Keith Isles, K-9 Shamey, ECO Vernon Bauer, and K-9 Woods with 10 Oxygen Masks at the Northeast Outdoor Sports Show at the Dutchess County Fairgrounds. The officers were at the sports show for a K-9 Unit demonstration. The mask sets are typically given to fire departments for use on animals involved in a fire. The masks were given to the DEC K-9 Unit in case one of the service dogs is hurt or overcome by fumes and needs to have oxygen administered to them. Ahlers came up with the idea to donate these masks when choosing community service requirements for his annual Boy Scout project. Ahlers uses bottle return money to buy the masks and donates them to local police and emergency responders. Ahlers also recently donated masks to local Orange and Ulster County Fire Departments and a City of Newburgh K-9 Unit. Robert started this project as part of his Boy Scout rank advancement project.

Robert Ahlers presents Tech Sgt. Keith Isles (with K-9 Shamey) and ECO Vernon Bauer (with K-9 Woods) of the DEC K-9 Unit with 10 Oxygen Masks.
Robert Ahlers presents Tech Sgt. Keith Isles (with K-9 Shamey)
and ECO Vernon Bauer (with K-9 Woods) of the DEC K-9 Unit
with 10 Oxygen Masks.

ECOs Assist Bureau of Wildlife with Bear Relocation - Franklin County

On May 21, ECOs Jeff Hovey and Lt. Mike Phelps assisted the Bureau of Wildlife with tranquilizing and relocating a bear that was causing a nuisance at a residence outside of Saranac Lake. The bear had broken into a garage several times over the past two years to raid the resident's garbage cans. A culvert trap was set and the healthy bear was caught, transported to the Ray Brook DEC office, and tranquilized by wildlife personnel. The bear was then tagged and relocated to a remote part of the Adirondack Park. ECO Hovey and Lt. Phelps are part of the Division of Law Enforcement's Chemical Immobilization Team and are trained to tranquilize wildlife that present a danger to the public. They assist DEC's Bureau of Wildlife and are available to respond to wildlife issues when the Bureau of Wildlife personnel are unavailable.

ECO Hovey and Bureau of Wildlife staff preparing the tranquilized bear for release.
ECO Hovey and Bureau of Wildlife staff preparing the
tranquilized bear for release.

If you witness an environmental crime or believe a violation of environmental law occurred please call the DEC Division of Law Enforcement hotline at 1-844-DEC-ECOS (1-844-332-3267).

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Andrew M. Cuomo, Governor * Basil Seggos, Commissioner

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