DEC Environmental Conservation Police Officer Highlights

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DEC Environmental Conservation Police Officer Highlights

ECO Actions for Mid-February

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

In 2018, the 288 ECOs across the state responded to 21,668 calls and worked on cases that resulted in 20,665 tickets or arrests for crimes ranging from deer poaching to solid waste dumping, illegal mining, the black market pet trade, and excessive emissions violations.

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).

"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 DEC 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:

Unsportsmanlike Conduct at Great Sacandaga Fishing Derbies - Fulton County
On Feb. 15, ECOs Jason Hilliard and Robert Higgins conducted a night patrol prior to the start of the Great Sacandaga Lake (GSL) Fisheries derby and the Walleye Challenge. The ECOs located tip-ups that had been left out overnight unoccupied, a violation of Environmental Conservation Law. The officers also found a 32-inch northern pike being kept alive and stored in the ice next to an unoccupied fishing shanty. Believing that the fish might be entered into one of the contests, ECOs Hilliard and Keith Kelly returned to the shanty the next morning to interview the angler about leaving his tip-ups unattended. When asked about his luck fishing that day, the angler proudly stated that he caught a big northern pike earlier in the morning, entered it in the contest, and released it. After the ECOs informed the subject that they had been out the previous night, the angler admitted to the wrongdoings. Contest rules state that a contestant cannot fish before a designated time, meaning that the angler entered the fish in violation of contest rules. The subject was issued a ticket for leaving fishing lines unattended and the officers shared the ticket with the contest board, resulting in the disqualification of the pike from the tournament.

ECOs Shane Manns, Steve Shaw, Rob Higgins, Brian Toth, Paul Pasciak, and Mark Klein also patrolled the events on Feb. 16, along with the New York State Police and the Fulton County Sheriff's Department. Patrols focused on public safety and compliance with fishing regulations for the thousands of people in attendance. Additional tickets were issued for unattended tip-ups, unregistered motor vehicles, and riding ATVs with no helmets. Patrols also assisted with an ATV and a snowmobile that went through the ice during the weekend.

Three snowmobiles with officers on them at nightLarge fish on the ice in shallow water with tip-ups covered in plastic
Night patrol on Great Sacandaga Lake found illegal tip-ups and a northern pike

Barn Fire - Seneca County
On Feb. 15, ECO Tim Brown was on patrol in the town of Fayette when he responded to a structure fire at a nearby farm. ECO Brown and Seneca County Sheriff's Deputy Zach Nelson arrived at the scene within minutes of the call and began helping the son of the property owner evacuate livestock from an adjacent barn close to the fire. By the time the livestock had been evacuated, firefighters from several local departments began to arrive on scene. The firefighters coordinated efforts over several hours to battle the blaze, which destroyed one barn and several pieces of farm machinery but resulted in no injuries to first responders or livestock. The cause of the fire is under investigation.

Farm gate with smoking barn in the background
Burning barn in Fayette

6th Annual Mariaville Lake Kids Ice Fishing Derby - Schenectady County
Feb. 16 marked the sixth year of the kids fishing derby on Mariaville Lake in Duanesburg, sponsored by Mariaville Lakeside Store and owner David Pirrone, the Wiggly Worm Bait Shop, Schenectady County Conservation Council (SCCC), and NY Conservation Officers Association (NYCOA). More than 80 children and parents participated. The SCCC and the Wiggly Worm provided children with a free Polar tip-up, which they could use and keep. Lts. Liza Bobseine and Jason DeAngelis joined ECOs Chris Valenty, Brian Willson, Kurt Bush, Wes Leubner, Russell Fetterman, and Mark Vencak and members of the Schalmont High School Outdoor Club at the event. David Pirrone and the Wiggly Worm bait shop graciously provided plenty of pizza and refreshments, as well as bait for everyone in attendance. Approximately 150 fish were caught and cash and prizes were awarded for the largest pickerel, perch, and bass.

Large group of people on frozen lake with ice fishing gear
Participants at Mariaville Lake fishing derby

Lighting Up the Night - Monroe County
In the early morning hours on Feb. 16, ECO Spencer Noyes observed a wide red spotlight scanning the fields and emanating from a pickup truck slowly driving on a rural road in the town of Hamlin. Noyes had recently received complaints of spotlighting and people shooting from the road in the area. Noyes followed the truck and pulled it over after the driver failed to stop at a stop sign. Inside the truck the ECO found five unsecured rifles, three spotlights, and multiple sets of shooting sticks. The driver admitted that he and his passenger were spotlighting to hunt coyotes from the truck. ECO Noyes issued multiple tickets for possessing an unsecured firearm while spotlighting and hunting with the aid of a motor vehicle. The charges are returnable to Town of Hamlin Court in March.

hunting rifles and gear lined up in the back of a truck
Unsecured firearms found in truck

A Day for the Birds - Delaware County
On Feb. 17, ECO Nathan Doig released three rehabilitated red-tailed hawks back into the wild at three Delaware County locations. With the help of the public, Delaware County-area ECOs caught and secured these three birds after they had been spotted in distress. Missy Runyan with Friends of the Feathered and Furry Wildlife Center helped to nurture the raptor hawks back to health. One of the red-tailed hawks had suffered brain trauma, another had a broken humorous, and the third was suffering from lead poisoning. Within five months of their initial treatments, these three majestic hawks were able to return to their natural habitats.

ECO standing in a field with a red-tailed hawk on his hand with wings spread, taking flight
ECO Doig releases one of the rehabilitated hawks

Eagle Rescue - Jefferson County
On Feb. 20 at around 1 p.m., ECO Peter Jackson was contacted by Jefferson County 911 dispatch regarding a bald eagle found injured on the side of County Rt. 24 in Oxbow. The eagle is a female that was netted and tagged by DEC biologists with a radio transmitter in January of 2008 in Delaware County. The eagle is estimated to be at least 13 years old. It appeared that the eagle was feeding on a carcass along the edge of the road and may have been struck by a car. When ECO Jackson arrived, it was apparent that the eagle had a broken left wing and was unable to fly. The ECO used a blanket to secure the raptor and its wing to prevent further injury. The eagle was then transported to North Country Animal Health Center outside Watertown, where it was treated for its injuries. The eagle is currently recovering and doing well at the veterinary facility, where it is expected to make a full recovery and eventually be released back to the wild.

Eagle on the snowy ground under some brushECO holding the injured eagle that has been wrapped in a large sheet with it's head sticking out.Eagle on a table in an Animal Health Center room, one wing hanging off the side of the table.
Injured eagle; ECO Jackson securing eagle; bald eagle undergoing treatment at North Country Animal Health Center

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Basil Seggos, Commissioner

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