|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 2021, 282 Environmental Conservation Police Officers (ECOs) and Investigators across the state responded to 26,207 calls and worked on cases that resulted in 11,562 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 are on the front lines each and every day protecting our natural resources by upholding New York's environmental laws and regulations and safeguarding public health," DEC Commissioner Basil Seggos said. "From ensuring hunters and anglers follow rules and regulations afield and on the water, to sustaining partnerships with local law enforcement agencies investigating crimes that include solid waste dumping and air emissions violations, ECOs and Investigators are on patrol, ready to serve their communities. Each year brings new challenges, and fortunately, these Officers and Investigators are expertly trained to perform their duties with persistence, integrity, and good judgment, as they've done for over a century."
Resident Rattled by Rattlesnake - Orange County
In July, ECOs in Orange County received a tip from the Woodbury Police Department about a rattlesnake found dead in a driveway with its head cut off and rattle missing. The ECOs interviewed multiple parties before zeroing in on a main suspect. The man admitted to killing the snake by chopping its head off and said he did it because he had never seen a rattlesnake and was afraid. The Officers educated the man on the important role of timber rattlesnakes in the ecosystem and informed him the snakes are protected under State Environmental Conservation Law. The subject received two tickets for the illegal take and possession of a protected species. ECOs remind New Yorkers that rattlesnakes do not typically attack people unless threatened or provoked and advise people not to panic, keep a safe distance of six feet or more, and let the snake move along on its own.
Seized rattlesnake head and rattle
Busy Boat Patrol - Erie County
On July 15, while on boat patrol in Lake Erie, ECOs Powers, Machnica, and Mathis received information from an angler who reported seeing a kayak being battered against rocks in a remote portion of Bird Island Pier. The individual advised he couldn't get close enough to see if anyone was in the water. The ECOs responded, located the kayak, and found no one in the immediate area. The Officers also noticed a Buffalo-based kayak rental company's name on the vessel and returned it to the owner who claimed it had been stolen along with several others the week prior.
From there, the ECOs headed up the Niagara River when an emergency call came over the marine radio for a vehicle that drove into the river from a marina. The Officers responded and determined everyone was out of the car before it was completely submerged. The ECOs, New York State Police, and Town of Tonawanda Police Department vessels remained on scene while divers pulled the vehicle from the water.
Vehicle pulled from Niagara River in Erie County
Water Safety Demo - Washington County
On July 19, ECOs Krug and Dewey spoke to campers and counselors at the Georgi Center in Shushan about the job duties of an ECO. The Officers conducted a brief water safety presentation in the Battenkill River, which runs through the community and is a popular destination for swimming and tubing. Officers Krug and Dewey are members of the multi-agency Flood Incident Strike Team that responds to water rescues statewide.
Young campers look on during ECO water safety training
Small Boat Rescue - Suffolk County
On July 20, while patrolling Peconic Bay, ECOs Simmons and Boyes received reports of a capsized vessel near Jamesport. The Officers immediately responded and found two young boaters sitting on top of the small, capsized boat. ECOs rescued the duo and retrieved some of their gear floating in the water. Riverhead Police Marine Patrol arrived a short time later, righted the boat, and towed it to shore. The boat, boaters, and recovered items were safely returned to shore.
Capsized vessel in Peconic Bay off Jamesport after boaters were rescued
Great White Shark Recovered - Suffolk County
On July 21, ECO Della Rocco received a call from the Southampton Bay Constable of a shark on the beach off Dune Road in Southampton. Initial inspections by DEC biologists indicated the same shark had been spotted the day before in the same location before washing back out to sea. Officer Della Rocco assisted the Bay Constable in removing the shark from the beach. The shark was approximately 6.5 feet in length and weighed about 250 pounds. DEC Marine Resources employees secured the animal for necropsy and additional testing. Necropsy results showed no obvious signs of mortality. Pathology results are pending.
Deceased shark washes up on Southampton beach
DEC employees prepare great white shark for necropsy and additional testing
Right Place, Right Time - Nassau County
On July 22, ECO Simmons, Lieutenant Reilly, and State Park Police Officer St. John patrolled the Atlantic Ocean off Jones Beach State Park in response to recent shark activity on Long Island. This season, ECOs are monitoring the area to help alert lifeguards to sharks in the water. During the patrol, the Officers encountered a 30-foot vessel drifting a few hundred yards off the beach, minutes away from being slammed by three- to five-foot swells breaking on shore. The boat's occupants said the engine stalled and wouldn't restart and the owner was unable to free the anchor from the windlass. ECO Simmons boarded the drifting vessel to assist in getting the anchor deployed while Lt. Reilly pulled into position alongside the vessel so that Officer St. John could get lines rigged for towing. The Officers safely towed the vessel further from shore and ECO Simmons eventually anchored the vessel and made sure it held in place while another tow boat made its way to the scene.
Boaters safely anchored off Jones Beach
Midnight Spearing - Sullivan County
On July 23 at about midnight, National Park Service (NPS) Rangers requested ECO Parker respond to the Delaware River fishing access in Narrowsburg in the town of Tusten after witnessing at least two boats allegedly spearfishing. ECO Parker responded, met with the NPS Rangers, and caught up with the first boater as it exited the waters. The Officers did not find fish on board but located a spear. The ECO ticketed the boater for possessing a spear on unpermitted waters and issued several navigation law offenses. NPS Rangers caught the second boater actively using a spear as they approached. Officers found 11 American eels and three spears on board. The boater was ticketed for using a spear on unpermitted water, as well as taking 11 eels except as permitted, and fishing by means other than angling. NPS Rangers also ticketed the second boater for two navigation law offenses.
Three spears found on a boat in Sullivan County
Bowfishing - Essex County
In response to recent complaints about bowfishing, operating without navigation lights, using bright spotlights, and making noise on Lake Champlain, ECOs patrolled the area. On July 23, a resident walking his dog reported several boats leaving the Port Henry Boat launch at around 9 p.m. for a rumored bowfishing tournament. ECO Buffa and Lieutenant Gonyeau responded to the area and noticed lights from some of the boats a long distance away. The boats began returning to the docks at approximately 1:30 a.m. The Officers checked 13 boats carrying 45 people and issued a range of tickets, including fishing without a license and insufficient personal flotation devices. The ECOs also gave several warnings for navigation lights and answered questions from the anglers about Environmental Conservation Law.
"They were so big I didn't need to measure them" - Nassau County
On July 24 while on patrol off Jones Inlet, ECOs Dickson, Pabes, and Macropoulos conducted several marine fishing inspections. The Officers found one vessel, fishing off the McAllister Grounds artificial reef, possessing an undersized black sea bass. Later that day and just inside the bay, the ECOs interviewed a person actively fishing off a boat who reported catching summer flounder (fluke). When asked the measurement of the fish, the angler replied, "They were so big, I didn't need to measure them." The ECOs discovered four fluke measuring under the legal limit of 18.5 inches. The smallest fish measured just 12 inches. The Officers issued four tickets during the patrol for possession of undersized fish and failure to carry an active recreational marine fishing registration.
ECOs Macropoulos and Dickson with undersized black sea bass and summer flounder
Bucket Full of Shorts - Suffolk County
On July 26 while patrolling popular fishing areas in Mount Saini, ECOs Small and Kaufherr observed a group of individuals fishing off a jetty on the Long Island Sound. The Officers checked the anglers when they got back to shore and noticed undersized porgies in their bucket. The ECOs measured all the fish and discovered 19 porgies under the legal size of 10 inches and one black sea bass under the legal size of 16 inches. The Officers issued three tickets for possession of undersized fish and failure to carry an active marine registry. All tickets are returnable to Suffolk First District Court.
Undersized porgies and black sea bass
Multi-Agency Commercial Vehicle Enforcement - Delaware County
On July 26, ECOs Osborne and Woodin joined the New York State Police and State Department of Transportation for a commercial vehicle enforcement detail along State Highway 17 in the town of Hancock. ECOs are trained to inspect heavy-duty diesel vehicles to ensure compliance with the State's stringent air regulations. Officers issued several tickets and warnings for environmental quality violations, including uncovered loads of solid waste, petroleum-leaking vehicles, exhaust leaks, and excessive emissions.
ECO Osborne inspects a heavy-duty diesel vehicle for violations
Penned Goose - Nassau County
On July 30, ECO DeRose received a complaint from a resident about a caged Canada Goose in the neighborhood. The caller expressed concerns the goose did not have enough room to move around and did not have ample food and water. Officer DeRose responded and discovered the goose in a wire dog crate. The ECO interviewed the homeowner who claimed a friend dropped it off after rehabilitating it for a prior injury and she intended to keep it as a pet. ECO DeRose advised the woman of New York's regulations against keeping wildlife as pets before removing the goose and ticketing the subject for unlawfully possessing protected wildlife. The ticket is returnable to Nassau County First District Court. The goose was subsequently examined, found to be in good health, and released.
Caged goose in backyard of Nassau County residence
Rescues and Realism - Law Enforcement Training Academy
During the week of July 25, ECO Recruits from the 23rd Basic School participated in their 10th week of intense, realistic training. Recruits began the week attending a two-day swiftwater rescue training at the State Preparedness Training Center (SPTC) to introduce them to the challenges of conducting rescue operations in flooded or moving waters. SPTC facilities can simulate a Class 3 whitewater rapid river and a flooded town. Recruits learned survival swimming and heaving line rescues, and finished the training with in-water rescue operations. Recruits returned to the academy and were greeted by ECOs from all over the state for reality-based training. The class worked through scenarios with ECOs roleplaying based on events they are likely to experience in the field. Boxing and classroom study in Environmental Conservation Law rounded out the week as recruits continue their specialized training. Video of the swiftwater training can be found at DEC's website, courtesy of NYSDEC.
ECO recruits participate in water rescue training at State Preparedness Training Center, Pulaski
ECOs recruits spar at State Preparedness Training Center in Pulaski
Civil Service Exam Application Deadline Extended
The application date for the entry-level law enforcement civil service exam used to fill titles with DEC's ECOs and Forest Rangers, Office of State Parks, Recreation, and Historic Preservation, and the State University of New York was recently extended to Aug. 10. As part of the State's ongoing commitment to maintaining public safety and diversifying our ranks, we encourage New Yorkers of all backgrounds to consider a meaningful and rewarding career in public service and apply. Qualified candidates can apply online.