DEC Environmental Conservation Police Officer Highlights

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DEC Environmental Conservation Police Officer Highlights

ECO Actions for Early May

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

In 2017, the 301 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.
If you witness an environmental crime or believe a violation of environmental law has 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 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:

Vulture Rescue - Orange County
On May 1, ECO Melissa Burgess received a call of a turkey vulture that had been struck by a vehicle on State Rt. 17M in the town of Chester. Two motorists stopped to assist the injured bird, which suffered a broken wing. ECO Burgess arrived on the scene and met officers from the Chester Police Department. The officer grabbed the feisty bird and secured it in a crate. The injured animal was taken to Flannery Animal Hospital, where the broken wing was treated, and then placed with a licensed wildlife rehabilitator. The bird is expected to make a full recovery and will be released back to the wild when it is at full strength.

ECO Burgess with injured vulture
ECO Burgess with injured vulture

Importing Invasive Species - Kings County
On May 1, ECOs Connor Dodge and Zachary Kochanowski received information from the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service that a company based out of Kings County had imported Oriental Weather Loaches (Misgurnus Anguillicaudatus), a prohibited freshwater invasive species, through JFK Airport. Documents provided to the ECOs showed that 40 of the species measuring three to four inches in length had come through the airport a week earlier. The company was contacted and advised of the issue and the company agreed to get the fish back from one of their purchasers. The ECOs arranged a meeting the following day to pick up the loaches, which were seized and properly disposed. The company was issued a summons for importing prohibited invasive species, returnable to Queens County Court.

Illegally imported Oriental Water Loaches
Illegally imported Oriental Water Loaches

Illegal Dumper Makes the News - Chemung County
On May 2, ECO John Lifrieri was contacted by West Elmira Police and Chemung County Dispatch for illegal dumping that occurred during the overnight hours at two separate boat launch sites, the Grove Street boat launch in Elmira and the Fitch's Bridge boat launch in West Elmira. ECO Lifrieri met with the officers and sorted through the household debris before it was loaded into a DPW truck for disposal. A piece of mail with a local address was found in the garbage. A West Elmira police officer and ECO Lifrieri then visited the other dump site in West Elmira and found a local TV news crew already on the scene. More household garbage was secured, including an unlabeled photo of a young boy. ECO Lifrieri and the officer took the photo to a local elementary school and the school administration immediately identified the boy. Officers were able to connect items from both sites to the boy's parents. After initially denying involvement, the boy's father admitted to being responsible after being shown his son's photo from the Fitch's Bridge dump site. The subject was charged on two counts of unlawful disposal of solid waste, one count for each dumping location, and the incident received extensive coverage in the local press. The case will be heard in both the Elmira town and city courts in June.

ECO Lifrieri and local Police and public works employees sorting through garbage
ECO Lifrieri and local Police and public works employees
sorting through garbage

Turkey Caper Solved - Lewis County
On the morning of May 6, ECO Shana Hutton received a complaint from Lewis County 911 reporting a turkey had been shot from the road in the town of Martinsburg. ECO Hutton contacted Lt. John Murphy to help respond. As the officers approached the area, the complainant called back saying that he had spotted the suspect's vehicle. Lt. Murphy arrived at the suspect's address and found the man with a shotgun and an untagged turkey. The man claimed he had been hunting that morning and shot the turkey. In the meantime, ECO Hutton arrived in the area where the violation occurred, located the spot where the bird was actually taken, and took statements from two witnesses. The witnesses observed the suspect's vehicle pass, heard one shot, and saw the same vehicle leave the area. ECO Corey Schoonover and K-9 Jake responded to find evidence of where the bird was actually taken. K-9 Jake quickly discovered the spent shell. ECO Hutton called the land owner, who said that she had not given the suspect permission to hunt there. The turkey was seized and the hunter was charged with failure to tag a turkey, trespassing on posted property, and illegal taking of wildlife.

Duckling Tragedy Averted - Suffolk County
On May 12, ECO Chris DeRose was monitoring Suffolk Police Department channels when he heard a call reporting an injured mallard duck in Copiague along Montauk Highway. When ECO DeRose arrived, Suffolk PD officers were at the scene and a mother mallard was dead in the road. Her ducklings had wandered into the storm water drain nearby, and were unreachable. ECO DeRose and Suffolk PD units used scrap pieces of plywood to force the ducklings to one side of the drain so they could be captured. The ducklings were in good health and delivered to a licensed Massapequa wildlife rehabber. They will be released back to the wild as they mature.

ECO DeRose with rescued ducklings
ECO DeRose with rescued ducklings