DEC Environmental Conservation Officer Highlights

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DEC Environmental Conservation Officer Highlights

ECO Actions for Early July

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

In 2016, the 286 ECOs across the state responded to 26,400 calls and issued 22,150 tickets for crimes ranging from deer poaching to corporate toxic dumping and illegal mining, the black market pet trade, and excessive emissions violations.

"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 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:

Immature Eagle Summering in Boat House - Franklin County

On July 3, ECO Jennifer Okonuk was contacted by a neighbor regarding a young eagle in a boat house in the town of Bellmont. ECO Okonuk contacted ECO Kevin Riggs and raptor specialist Mark Manske of Adirondack Raptors to assist. The three were able to safely capture the eagle, which Manske believes had been residing in the boat house for some time. The eagle was not being fed by its parents due to a breast bone sticking out. Manske transported the eagle to wildlife rehabilitator Wendy Hall. On July 5, Manske contacted ECO Okonuk to inform her that the eagle had been hydrated, and was eating mice and doing well. The eagle is expected to return to full health and will be released back to its habitat as soon as possible.

Raptor specialist Mark Manske and intern Rachel Serfilippi evaluating the eagle.
Raptor specialist Mark Manske and intern Rachel Serfilippi evaluating the eagle.

The Case of the Sunken Vessel - Sullivan County

On July 3, ECO Tom Koepf assisted the Sullivan County Sheriff's Office with the retrieval of a sunken speed boat on Swinging Bridge Reservoir in the town of Thompson. The vessel's driver had been traveling at a high rate of speed the previous night and struck a pontoon boat in the middle of the reservoir. The speed boat immediately sunk. Luckily, the passengers on the pontoon boat rescued the two male subjects thrown from the speed boat. Once the pontoon boat made it back to shore, the two male subjects fled the scene on foot before law enforcement arrived. ECO Koepf assisted with the New York State Police and several local fire departments by transporting divers to and from the wreck and providing site security while they worked. The divers located the wreck and attached float bags to bring it to the surface, where it was then towed to shore and removed from the water. The investigation to identify the two subjects continues.

Team of divers
Retriving sunken boat
Sunken boat lifed to shore
DEC ECOs transporting divers to the sunken vessel, which was lifted from the water on Swinging Bridge Reservoir

Double Duty for DEC K-9 - Sullivan County

On July 3, ECO Ricky Wood and K-9 "Deming" responded to a wooded area between the Twin Lakes and Whispering Pines trailer parks in the town of Mamakating to assist the New York State Police with a July 1 shooting complaint. The initial investigation of a noise complaint was believed to involve fireworks, but further investigation revealed the noise was from the discharge of a firearm. The Trooper had identified a suspect in the shooting and interviewed him regarding the complaint. It was determined that the suspect had been walking through the woodlot between the two trailer parks and was shooting a shotgun at random trees. One of the shots struck an unoccupied trailer. ECO Wood deployed K-9 Deming to locate spent shell components in the area within 500 feet of the occupied dwellings. K-9 Deming quickly located a spent shell wad, which matched the live rounds possessed by the suspect. The evidence also revealed that the shooter was firing within 500 feet of the occupied dwellings and in the direction of the houses. The suspect was charged with Discharging a Firearm within 500 feet of an Occupied Dwelling by ECO Wood, and charged by the Trooper with Reckless Endangerment 2nd degree and Criminal Mischief 3rd degree. The suspect was scheduled to appear for arraignment in the Town of Mamakating Court on July 20.

Uncertified Shellfish Equals Certified Tickets - Queens County

On July 4, U.S. Park Police contacted ECO Zach Brown about multiple individuals shellfishing in an area of Queens closed to shellfish harvesting. ECO Brown and ECO Jonathan Walraven apprehended four subjects loading their vehicle with approximately 300 hard shell clams and one bushel of mussels. All four subjects were issued a summons for taking shellfish from uncertified waters and the shellfish were returned to the water. On July 9, ECOs Brown and Walraven were again patrolling in Queens County when they observed multiple people wading out into the water and digging in the sand at low tide. The ECOs conducted surveillance and counted 17 individuals that appeared to be taking shellfish from the uncertified waters. DLE Marine Unit members Waldemar Auguscinski and Christopher Macropoulos were called in for assistance. Using the Marine Unit's Zodiak inflatable boat, the ECOs apprehended all 17 subjects. The ECOs issued each a summons for taking shellfish from uncertified water and seized an estimated 4,000 clams. The clams were returned to the water and the summonses are returnable to Queens County Court.

Clams and mussels seized on July 4
Clams and mussels seized on July 4
ECOs with clams seized on July 9
ECOs with clams seized on July 9

Busy Fourth of July - Franklin and Fulton Counties

Many boaters on Tupper Lake in the Adirondacks anchor off shore to watch the annual fireworks display on July 4, and ECOs Nate Favreau and Jim Cranker conducted a boat patrol to help ensure boaters safely enjoyed the celebration. Friendly reminders were given to a few boaters to activate their anchor lights, and one boat operator was cited for speeding too close to the shore. ECOs from Fulton, Hamilton, Saratoga, and Washington counties also patrolled the Broadalbin boat launch to ensure boaters had a safe holiday weekend. The boat launch has been the scene of numerous violations, generating many complaints in the past. During the four-day holiday weekend, nearly 70 tickets were issued for numerous violations, including improper use of the boat launch site and unregistered trailers. Several arrests were made for Driving While Intoxicated. All of the tickets are returnable to the Town of Broadalbin Court.

ECO Nate Favreau patrols Tupper Lake.
ECO Nate Favreau patrols Tupper Lake
ECOs Shane Manns, Pete Buswell, and New York State Police patrol in Broadalbin.
ECOs Shane Manns, Pete Buswell, and New York State Police patrol in Broadalbin

Wellsville Bear - Allegany County

On July 5, ECOs Russ Calanni and Jason Powers and Lt. Don Pleakis and Division of Wildlife staff worked to safely remove a bear that had climbed a tree in a residential neighborhood in the village of Wellsville after being hit by a car. Although it was not seriously injured, the bear jumped a fence and took cover in a tree. It started to draw attention from the neighbors, and the decision was made to tranquilize the bear and remove it from the village. ECOs Calanni and Powers, members of DLE's Chemical Immobilization Team (CIT), darted the bear and safely removed it from the tree. The Wellsville Police Department stopped traffic along busy State Route 417 while the tranquilization and removal took place. After loading the bear into a trap, it was transported to Coyle Hill State Forest, where the bear was examined, tagged, monitored, and then released.

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).