DEC Environmental Conservation Police Officer Highlights

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DEC Environmental Conservation Police Officer Highlights

Recent ECO Actions

New York State Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) Police Officers (ECOs) and Investigators enforce the 71 Chapters of NY 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 2020, the 298 ECOs and Investigators across the state responded to 29,673 calls and worked on cases that resulted in 11,952 tickets or arrests for crimes ranging from deer poaching to solid waste dumping, illegal mining, the black market pet trade, and excessive emissions violations.

"DEC's Environmental Conservation Police Officers are working hard in communities across New York to protect natural resources by upholding our state's stringent laws and regulations and protecting public safety," Commissioner Basil Seggos said. "Our ECOs are expertly trained to perform their duties in every setting-from cities to wilderness-and continue to adapt to meet new and emerging challenges as they build on their longstanding commitment to protect New York's environment."

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).

ECO K9 Graduation - Schoharie County
On Oct. 29, New York State Environmental Conservation Police graduated two handlers and K9s from the Basic Handler School in Summit. ECOs LaCroix and Schneller completed the three-month handler school with their new K9 partners. This is Officer LaCroix's second K9 partner, named Web, as he retires K9 Diesel after a nine-year career. K9 Web is named after deceased New York State Game Protector, Clarence J. Webster, who was killed in an automobile accident while on patrol on Nov. 16, 1944, in Washington County. ECO LaCroix and K9 Web are certified in wildlife detection, spent shell casing detection, human tracking, and handler protection. The team will be assigned to Clinton County (DEC Region 5).

ECO Schneller will be working with his first K9 partner, Benny. K9 Benny is named after deceased New York State Game Protector Benning W. DeLaMater who drowned while patrolling the Hudson River near the Federal Dam in Troy on June 24, 1961, in Albany County. ECO Schneller and K9 Benny are certified in wildlife detection, spent shell casing detection, human tracking, and handler protection. The K9 team will be assigned to St. Lawrence County (DEC Region 6).

Three ECOs standing next to two K9s laying in the grass
ECO LaCroix and K9 Web (L), K9 Program Coordinator Technical Sgt. Schoonover (Center), and ECO Schneller and K9 Benny (R)

First Confirmed EHD Survivor - Greene County
During the late summer and early fall, an outbreak of Epizootic Hemorrhagic Disease (EHD) led to the death of a significant number of whitetail deer in parts of New York. On Nov. 2, ECO Palmateer received information from a Catskill family about a youth hunter who arrowed a buck with deformities on its hooves. The family reported that it looked like the hooves were starting to detach from the deer. The ECO spoke with DEC Wildlife Pathologist Kevin Hynes, who advised that these symptoms are historically indicative of deer that has survived the EHD virus. Hynes requested the deer be brought in for testing and the family donated the deer and gut pile to DEC. ECO Palmateer transported the deer to the Wildlife Health Unit in Delmar, where staff tested the spleen and hooves and found the presence of the EHD virus in both. This is the first deer in New York State to be confirmed as an EHD survivor. For more information on EHD, visit the DEC website.

person holding a dead deer by the base of the antlers
New York State's first confirmed EHD survivor

All Wrong - Greene County
In early October, ECO Palmateer received an anonymous tip about a wounded bear seen near land conservancy property in the town of Greenville during opening weekend of bow season. Knowing this area is closed to hunting and not high density for bears, ECO Palmateer contacted Investigator Sulkey for help surveilling the area. The Officers discovered four tree stands baited with mixtures of feed, corn, and mineral blocks. They also located a broken arrow with blood on it. On Nov. 6, opening day of crossbow hunting, ECOs Palmateer, Smith, and Investigator Sulkey returned to the location just after sunrise. They observed four subjects, including one minor, hunting over bait. One subject also possessed an illegal crossbow. After conducting interviews with the subjects, one hunter admitted to shooting and wounding the bear on opening day of bow season. Officers issued 11 tickets, including charges of hunting deer with the aid of bait, placing salt licks on lands inhabited by deer, illegal feeding of whitetail deer, hunting with an illegal crossbow, failing to carry tags afield, hunting bear with the aid of bait, and illegal pursuit of black bear. All tickets are returnable to the Town of Greenville Court.

pile of bait on the ground in the woods
One of the bait piles containing corn, feed, and minerals in Greenville

Illegal Take of 10-Point Buck - Greene County
On Nov. 2, ECO Palmateer received an anonymous tip about a subject shooting a deer in the town of Catskill. In response, the ECO interviewed the hunter who admitted to shooting the 10-point-buck in the woods next to his house. The hunter showed Officer Palmateer the untagged deer hanging in his garage and Palmateer noticed a kernel of corn in the gut pile of the deer in a garbage can nearby. The Officer requested to be shown the location where the deer was shot and noticed a feeder with corn attached to a nearby tree, in addition to a large bin of pears in the hunter's driveway used to feed deer. ECO Palmateer seized the deer and the hunter's tag and ticketed him for unlawful feeding of whitetail deer, hunting deer with the aid of a pre-established bait pile, failure to tag deer as required, and the illegal take of whitetail deer. The venison was donated to the Venison Donation Coalition.

ECO kneeling next to the illegally taken deer
ECO Palmateer with illegally taken 10-pointer

Don't Hunt Here - Orange County
On Nov. 6, ECO Schneider responded to a horse farm in Warwick after receiving complaints from local police and the property owner about multiple individuals trespassing on the farm. The complainants reported seeing people on the property hunting. Officer Schneider responded and observed individuals gathered around a dead 11-point buck lying next to one of the vehicles. After speaking with a local police officer on scene and the landowner, the ECO learned that none of the individuals had been granted permission to hunt the legally posted property. Further investigation revealed a cocked and loaded crossbow in one of the vehicles. All of the hunters received multiple tickets and were escorted off the property.

ECO holding illegally taken buck by the base of the antlers
ECO Schneider with illegally taken buck

A Weekend at Grandpa's - Oneida County
On Nov. 9, ECO Noyes received reports from a Michigan Conservation Officer regarding a video circulating on social media of a Michigan resident deer hunting somewhere in Oneida County. The resulting investigation determined the person was hunting without a New York State hunting license and possibly had shot a deer the day before in the Rome area. In Rome, Officer Noyes visited the home of the hunter's grandfather and discovered that the Michigan man had in fact shot and wounded a deer over an area baited with apples and pumpkins behind the residence. Working with the Michigan Conservation Officer, ECO Noyes determined that both the hunter and grandfather were responsible. Both received tickets for hunting over bait, attempted illegal take of deer, and hunting without a license, all returnable to Rome City Court.

Thresher Shark Fin at Fulton Fish Market - Bronx County
On Nov. 9, ECOs Veloski and Currey conducted a 5 a.m. patrol of the Fulton Fish Market in Bronx County. During the routine compliance check of the permitted seafood wholesaler, the Officers found a box of what appeared to be fresh shark fins sitting on the selling floor. After interviewing and collecting invoices from various wholesalers, the ECOs determined the shark fins were from a thresher shark caught off Long Island. The shark fins were detached from the body of the shark and offered for sale. Commercial fishing regulations prohibit selling shark fins and Officers issued the wholesaler a summons for possessing the box of illegal shark parts.

Two ECOs holding the shark fins
ECOs Veloski and Curry with seized thresher shark fins

ECO taking away the illegal shakrl fins from the market
ECO Veloski discovers illegal shark fins for sale at Fulton Fish Market

Successful Youth Hunter - Delaware County
In early Nov., thanks to the State's new hunting privileges for youth, a 13-year-old in Delaware County harvested his first buck with a crossbow. DEC's new guidelines allow licensed hunters aged 12 and older to hunt deer with a crossbow, and hunters aged 14 and older to hunt bear, unprotected wildlife, and most small game species with a crossbow. With goose, duck, and deer hunting in full swing, ECO Doig took the opportunity to help educate new hunters on hunting safety while afield.

13-year-old hunter with his first buck harvested with a crossbow
ECO Doig with 13-year-old hunter

Jumping the Gun to Shotgun Season - Orange County
On Nov. 7, ECO Carl received a report of a gunshot and a hunter driving an ATV to the area where the shot was heard to retrieve a deer. The Southern Zone firearms season opened Nov. 20, meaning this deer was illegally taken. Officer Carl quickly responded to investigate a nearby residence. Upon turning the corner of the garage, she saw an eight-point buck in a wagon attached to an ATV. There was corn in the wagon, as well. A search of the garage presented a large cache of deer corn, apples, and bread ready to be used to bait deer. After interviewing the subject, Officer Carl determined the deer was taken with a shotgun during the bow season with the use of a bait pile. The subject was issued several tickets returnable to the Town of Greenville Court. The deer was seized and donated to a local charity.

Illegally taken deer in a wagon
Deer illegally taken with shotgun during the bow season

Sidewalk Sale of Seafood - Kings County
On Nov. 15, ECOs Pansini and Currey from the Marine Enforcement Unit conducted a patrol on 8th Avenue in Kings County, a location known for illegal sales of seafood. The ECOs checked for regulated species offered for sale by markets and sidewalk vendors. During their patrol, the ECOs seized 24 untagged and undersized striped bass offered for sale on the street. In addition, the Officers seized 12 untagged tautog, as well as 80 undersized oyster toadfish offered for sale by multiple seafood retail markets along 8th Avenue. All seized marine species determined to be safe for consumption were donated to a local charity. When not conducting boat patrol, Officers assigned to the Marine Unit typically conduct patrols that focus on commercial fishing violations in retail markets.

ECOs with illegally taken marine species
ECOs Pansini and Currey with illegal marine species sold in Kings County

Illegally Harvested Black Bear - Greene County
On Nov. 20, ECO Smith received a call from a concerned hunter in the town of Lexington regarding an illegally harvested black bear. The hunter was afield for the opening morning of the regular season for the Southern Zone and witnessed a sow with three cubs descending the mountain through his property. He contacted the other members of his hunting party to advise them it is illegal to harvest a bear from a group in the Southern Zone. Shortly after texting his hunting party he heard four shots from an adjacent property in the direction the bears were travelling. The hunter later located evidence of an animal being harvested and contacted ECO Smith. ECOs Smith and Palmateer responded to the location to investigate and collect evidence, including photos, video, and witness statements. After interviewing nearby residents, the ECOs located the sow bear carcass at a residence in Prattsville. The individual that harvested the bear admitted to taking the sow and was issued appearance tickets returnable in the town of Lexington Court. The bear was seized as evidence and the meat donated.

Illegally harvested black bear sow
Illegally harvested black bear sow in town of Lexington

Bait Camp Busted - Greene County
On Nov. 21, Greene County ECOs busted a baited hunting camp in the town of Hunter after receiving tips one week before opening day of the rifle season. Acting on the tips, ECO Palmateer and Investigator Sulkey surveilled the property and found piles of corn at multiple locations. On opening morning, ECOs Palmateer, Smith, and Investigator Sulkey entered the property and found three different subjects hunting over large piles of corn. After further investigation, the Officers discovered a fourth hunter had shot a black bear on the same property. The ECOs found the bear lying un-tagged approximately 10 yards from the bait. The Officers seized the bear and ticketed the shooter for hunting with the aid of bait, failing to tag as required, and illegally taking black bear. The three other hunters were ticketed for hunting with the aid of pre-established bait.

Two ECOs standing with illegally taken bear
Illegally taken bear seized by ECOs

Piles of corn scattered in the woods
Piles of corn placed as bait

Big Game Checkpoint - Bronx County
On Nov. 21, ECOs set up a deer checkpoint on roads leading up to the Throgs Neck Bridge in Bronx County. They were joined by New York State Police, New York Police Department's Highway Unit, and Triborough Bridge and Tunnel Authority Police Officers in a joint effort to enforce hunting regulations for the taking of deer and bear, and the proper loading of firearms. Approximately 186 firearms, 82 deer, and three bears passed through the multi-agency detail that Sunday. During the checkpoint, numerous tickets for violations of Environmental Conservation Law were issued for hunting and tagging violations.

ECO checking deer at a checkpoint in NYC
ECO McCarthy checking an eight-pointer at NYC deer checkpoint

ECO checking for correctly used deer tags at the checkpoint
ECO Michalet checking for proper deer tags

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Basil Seggos, Commissioner

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