DEC Environmental Conservation Police Officer Highlights

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DEC Environmental Conservation Police Officer Highlights

ECO Actions for Late March to Early April

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:

Stripers Run, Poachers Keep None - Westchester County
On March 24, ECOs Craig Tompkins and Kevin Wamsley conducted Striped Bass enforcement on the Hudson River in Westchester County. While checking individual anglers, the ECOs discovered several fish on shore next to two groups fishing. When interviewed, the individuals admitted to catching and keeping the fish. The ECOs directed the individuals to empty the bags on the shore, and found three more Striped Bass. While issuing tickets to the violators in the parking lot, multiple fishing groups were returning to their vehicles with fishing gear. The ECOs split up and began checking the individuals and their bags. Four anglers were found to be in possession of out-of-season Striped Bass, which they had taken from the Hudson River. A total of seven summonses were issued. All the illegally taken fish were seized and donated to a local zoo. Striped Bass season begins April 1, on the Hudson River north of the George Washington Bridge, and April 15, south of the bridge and in marine waters.

Two ECOs on the shoreline with large striped bass lined up on the ground.
ECOs Tompkins and Wamsley with Out-of-Season Striped Bass

Environmental Quality Detail - Niagara County
On March 28, Niagara County ECOs George Scheer, Shea Mathis, and Kevin Holzle conducted an environmental quality detail in the city of Lockport. The detail was set up in response to a complaint from a local business owner expressing concern about trash and debris falling off vehicles hauling waste to a nearby transfer station. When hauling solid waste, a cover is required to protect against the spillage of waste and emission of odors during transfer and transportation. The ECOs stopped a number of trucks and issued seven tickets - four for transporting uncovered load of solid waste (a violation with penalties of $1,500 to $15,000 and/or up to 15 days in jail) and three for violations of vehicle and traffic laws.

Garter Snake among Pet Mice - Ulster County
On March 28, Ulster County SPCA took hundreds of animals from an apartment in the city of Kingston. The animals primarily consisted of pet mice and other domestic animals, but among the cages was a Garter snake taken from its natural habitat. The Ulster County SPCA contacted the Friends of the Feathered and Furry Wildlife Center to take custody of the Garter snake. ECO Jeannette Bastedo followed up with the man who had been keeping the snake as a pet. When interviewed, the subject said he had brought the snake inside because it was cold outside and thought it was going to die. The man was issued a ticket for illegal possession of wildlife returnable to City of Kingston Court. The ECO educated the subject on letting wildlife remain wild and what to do if he finds wildlife in the future. DEC recommends that when someone encounters an injured or orphaned wild animal, they should call a wildlife rehabilitator or the nearest DEC regional wildlife office.

Small dark-colored snake in a large plastic bin with sticks and woodchips as bedding.
Seized Garter Snake

An Over-the-Limit Crappie Day - Chautauqua County
On March 29, ECOs Darci Dougherty and Chris Freeman received a complaint of a fisherman who had kept over his limit of crappie on Chautauqua Lake. The ECOs patrolled to the canal off the lake and quickly identified the vessel in question. Upon questioning the fisherman, the man claimed that some of the 65 crappies in his possession were caught the previous day, which still put the subject over the limit by 15 fish. The fisherman was cited for possessing over the limit of black crappie and failure to carry a valid license while fishing. The ECOs seized the fish that were over the limit and ECO Dougherty successfully released many of the living fish back into the water.

Large amount of fish scattered on the ground.
Over the Limit Fish

Poachers Pay for Out-of-Season Stripers - Westchester County
On March 29, ECO Craig Tompkins patrolled access points along the Hudson River in Westchester County looking for fishing activity. Anglers taking advantage of the warm temperatures were out in high numbers. ECO Tompkins observed multiple groups fishing at Croton Point Park when he observed several fishermen catch and keep Striped Bass. The season for Striped Bass at that location does not open until April 1, and as the ECO approached the first fisherman, the officer observed a garbage bag stuffed in the rocks along shore. When asked, the fisherman admitted it was his bag and that it contained six Striped Bass. After issuing the fisherman a ticket for possession of Striped Bass out of season, ECO Tompkins saw two anglers packing up their gear and walking to the parking lot. The ECO met the two men at their truck and watched as one of the men placed a bag containing fish on the ground. ECO Tompkins emptied the bag and found 12 Striped Bass. One of the men admitted to catching and keeping all of the fish. This subject was also issued a ticket for possession of Striped Bass out of season. The ECO released any fish that were still alive back to the Hudson River; the remaining fish were donated to a local zoo. All tickets are currently pending in the Village of Croton-on-Hudson Court for a date in April.

Three rows of striped bass on the pavement along side of an ECO vehicle
Seized Striped Bass

Dolphin Rescue - Suffolk County
On April 1, East Hampton Marine Patrol notified Region 1 ECOs that they were on scene with a stranded dolphin in Accabonac Harbor off Louse Point. The stranded animal was believed to be a Risso's Dolphin. ECOs Sean Rockefeller, Evan Laczi, and Jordan Doroski responded along with staff from the Riverhead Foundation. The dolphin was found to be in good health. ECOs, Riverhead Foundation staff, and East Hampton Marine Patrol personnel used a stretcher to carry the dolphin to deeper water. The dolphin swam out to the bay and eventually travelled out of sight.

ECOs and other local personnel knee-deep in the water examining a dolphin for release
ECOs, Riverhead Foundation Staff, and East Hampton
Marine Patrol Personnel Help Rescue a Stranded Dolphin

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Basil Seggos, Commissioner

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