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Environmental Conservation Police on Patrol

Environmental Conservation Police on Patrol

For Release: Thursday, November 9, 2023

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 2022, Environmental Conservation Police Officers (ECOs) and Investigators across the state responded to more than 25,600 calls and worked on cases that resulted in nearly 13,800 tickets or arrests for violations ranging from deer poaching to solid waste dumping, illegal mining, the illegal pet trade, and excessive emissions violations.

 ”DEC Environmental Conservation Police Officers and Investigators work hard each day to serve their communities, protect our precious natural resources, and safeguard public health, while ensuring those who break the state’s stringent Environmental Conservation Laws are held accountable,” DEC Commissioner Basil Seggos said. “In partnership with local, state, and federal law enforcement, DEC looks forward to continuing to support the work our ECOs perform in every corner of New York.”  

Illegal Log Dump – Suffolk County, NY 

A tree service company in Deer Park recently paid a $2,500 fine for illegally dumping eight large loads of logs and tree debris on public lands at the Central Pine Barrens in Yaphank. DEC Bureau of Environmental Crimes Investigators identified the responsible party after the Central Pine Barrens Commission and Suffolk County Sherriff’s Office discovered the illegally dumped debris, totaling more than 100 cubic yards. The piles were removed and disposed of properly.

Logs and debris illegally dumped in Suffolk County

Joint Waterfowl Detail – Western NY 

ECOs in DEC Regions 7 and 8 conducted compliance checks on waterfowl hunters on opening weekend in the Western Zone. Officers focused on Cayuga Lake, Northern Montezuma Wildlife Management Area in Seneca County, and the Lake Ontario bays of Cayuga and Wayne counties. On each day of the weekend detail, four teams of two ECOs headed afield and checked more than 150 hunters. The Officers issued 14 tickets for waterfowl hunting violations including unplugged guns and failure to possess licenses, stamps, and registrations with the Migratory Bird Harvest Information Program, as required.

ECO Scalisi checking duck hunters at Northern Montezuma Wildlife Management Area

Over Bait – Suffolk County 

On Oct. 2, ECO Cacciola responded to an injured fawn in Saint James. The fawn appeared to have died from natural causes, but the Officer became suspicious after discovering three nearby deer stands and a bait pile in the small, forested area. Officer Cacciola periodically checked the area and on Oct. 8 witnessed two hunters set up in tree stands. The hunters had written permission to be on the property but admitted during questioning to baiting the area. One of the hunters confessed to shooting a doe with an arrow earlier that morning. Officer Anderson arrived at the location to assist in seizing evidence including the doe, the hunters’ bows, and samples of the bait. Both hunters were charged with hunting with the aid of a preestablished bait pile the hunter who took the doe earlier in the day faced an additional charge of illegally taking a deer. The tickets are returnable to Suffolk County First District Court.  

Seized bow used to illegally take a deer in Suffolk County

Battery Park Burmese – New York County 

On Oct. 11, U.S. Park Police and New York City Parks Enforcement Officers alerted ECO Goonan about a man with a large python in Battery Park near the Statue of Liberty ferry terminal. Officer Goonan arrived at the location to find an individual with a 12-foot Burmese python without a permit. ECOs Ableson and Pansini joined the Officer to assist and confirmed the subject is the same individual who recently had a Burmese and reticulated python in his possession at the same location. Both species are listed as dangerous animals under Environmental Conservation Law. ECOs seized the python and issued a New York City summons for possessing a wild animal. The python was transported to the Nassau County SPCA Police.

Nassau County SPCA Detective Roper and ECO Goonan with 12-foot Burmese python

Trunk or Treat – Niagara County 

On Oct.14, ECO Scheer attended a “Trunk or Treat” event at Niagara County Community College in Sanborn. The event, organized by the Niagara County Sherriff’s Office and Emergency Services Unit, included emergency responders from across the county. Officer Scheer handed out candy to local children dressed in their Halloween best, including some who dressed up as players from the hometown Buffalo Bills. The treats were generously donated by the New York Conservation Officers Association.

ECO Scheer with trunk or treaters in Niagara County

Commercial Vehicle Enforcement Detail – Westchester County  

On Oct. 19, ECOs Tompkins and Franz conducted a Commercial Vehicle Enforcement Detail in Westchester County with assistance from DEC’s Bureau of Pesticides, New York State Police, and the Lewisboro Police Department. The enforcement focused on air quality, solid waste, invasive species, and pesticides and resulted in five tickets issued for violations including expired Heavy-Duty Diesel Vehicle (HDDV) emissions inspections, uncovered loads of solid waste, and operation of a HDDV with a failed emission test.

ECO Tompkins inspecting a truck during Commercial Vehicle Checkpoint Detail  

Corn and Crossbows – Suffolk County 

On Oct. 22, ECO Zullo conducted a hunting compliance check in the town of Southold. During his investigation, Officer Zullo discovered the hunter was using a crossbow to hunt white-tailed deer over a pile of corn approximately 25 yards in front of a tree stand with a trail camera facing the corn pile. In Suffolk County it is unlawful to hunt white-tailed deer with a crossbow; in New York State it is unlawful to hunt deer with the aid of preestablished bait. ECO Zullo collected the crossbow, bolts, trail camera, and corn as evidence and ticketed the hunter for hunting deer with the aid of a preestablished bait pile, hunting with an unlawful crossbow, and hunting deer with a crossbow in Suffolk County. All summonses are returnable to Southold Town Justice Court.

Bait pile of corn discovered near tree stand and trail camera in Suffolk County

Fishing Compliance Checks – Broome/Suffolk/Nassau/Kings/New York Counties 

From catching cast netters on camera to busting illegal sidewalk fish markets, here are some of the highlights from this week’s statewide fishing compliance checks:

  • On Oct. 8, ECO McCormick received reports and photo evidence of three individuals near Goudey Dam on the Susquehanna River in Broome County catching fish with a cast net. Officer McCormick and Lieutenant Rigoli responded to the area and approached the group who were unaware they could not cast net for fish in those waters. Officers found the trio in possession of a bag containing five fish but photographs revealed a second bag. When pressed, the anglers presented ECOs with a bag hidden in nearby bushes containing 29 unlawful fish. Officer McCormick issued eight tickets for taking fish by means other than angling, taking undersized fish, and fishing without a freshwater fishing license, returnable to the Town of Union Court.
  • On Oct. 10, ECO Dickson received a complaint about a boat spotted at a gas dock in Suffolk County with a blackfish (tautog) in a bucket, five days before the start of blackfish season on the South Shore. ECO Dickson contacted the U.S. Coast Guard for assistance and set out to search for the vessel. Eventually, Officers spotted the boat matching the complaint description pulling into a dock. ECO Dickson interviewed the fisherman who claimed he only caught a striped bass that day. Further investigation determined this to be false. Officers found the out-of-season blackfish in the bucket, as reported, as well as several other out-of-season and undersized fish species in multiple locations throughout the boat, resulting in multiple citations for the angler.
  • On Oct. 12, ECOs in Kings County received a tip about illegal Chinese mitten crabs at a store in Brooklyn. ECO Kortz responded to the location and discovered 289 crabs illegally imported from China in Styrofoam containers in the store’s basement. Chinese mitten crabs are illegal to possess in New York State because they are highly invasive. A Notice of Violation issued to the store is pending. Shortly after leaving the store, Officer Kortz conducted a market check at a nearby supermarket and discovered illegally possessed blood clams. A further investigation revealed the same individual possessing the blood clams had been issued two tickets the week before for the same offense by the same Officer. Approximately 250 blood clams were seized from the second store and tickets issued.
  • ECOs in Manhattan recently conducted a detail focused on the illegal sale of fish on New York City streets. Officers issued tickets for untagged striped bass and blackfish for sale, as well as possessing fish below the legal size limit, all returnable to New York County Criminal Court.
  • On Oct.15, opening day for blackfish (tautog), ECOs Perkins and Paschke conducted recreational saltwater fishing compliance checks at the Smith Point Outer Beach in Suffolk County. A fisherman approached the Officers during the patrol to report a group of anglers on the jetty catching “short fish.” As the ECOs approached the group, one angler, bent down near rocks, began pulling fish out of the rocks and tossing them back into the water, despite repeated commands to stop. The Officers, with assistance from ECO DeRose and his K-9 partner Cramer, discovered 22 blackfish, 14 of which were undersized. ECOs issued a total of 18 tickets to the five anglers for charges including dumping fish upon signals to stop, failure to possess a Marine Registry, undersized species, over-the-limit species, and failure to release without undue harm.
  • In the early morning hours of Oct. 27, ECOs Traynor and Kortz observed a commercial vessel dock and offload containers into the Kings County marina’s parking lot. The Officers discovered 85 untagged commercially harvested black fish (tautog) in an aerated tank awaiting transport to a local market to be sold for $14 per pound, for a total value of $3,100. Of the 85 fish, 20 were smaller than the legal commercial size of 15 inches. The legal commercial limit for blackfish is 25 per day. ECOs seized more than 200 pounds of fish and issued a Notice of Violation to the defendant.

Fish and cast nets seized by ECOs in Broome County

ECO Dickson with various undersized and out-of-season species in Suffolk County

ECO Kortz with confiscated Chinese mitten crabs and blood clams

From Left to Right – Lieutenant Levanway with ECOs Goonan and Ableson and fish seized in Manhattan

ECOs Perkins and Paschke with 14 undersized blackfish and black sea bass

ECO Traynor with fish seized after early morning surveillance in Brooklyn

ECO Awarded Sportsman of the Year – Sullivan County  

Congratulations to ECO Wood on being awarded Sportsmen’s Club of Sullivan County “Sportsman of the Year.” Officer Wood received the award in October for outstanding professionalism and dedication to the sporting community of Sullivan County. ECO Wood is a 16-year veteran with DEC’s Division of Law Enforcement and was accompanied at the ceremony by his family and his colleagues.

Sportsman of the Year ECO Wood with his K9 partner CJ

To contact an ECO to report an environmental crime or to report an incident, call 1-844-DEC-ECOS for 24-hour dispatch or email (for non-urgent violations). 

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