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 2015, the 268 ECOs across the state responded to 25,000 calls and issued 22,000 tickets for crimes ranging from deer poaching to corporate toxic dumping and illegal mining, 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:
Way Over the Limit For Waterfowl – Jefferson County
On Dec. 7, while investigating a complaint of several deer carcasses being dumped in a local stream in the town of Clayton, ECOs Shea Mathis and Lt. Steven Bartoszewski found the suspect’s vehicle at a nearby boat launch. The officers waited for several hours for the suspect to return to the launch, and the long wait eventually paid off. The suspect and another individual were found to be in possession of 21 ducks, including 18 mallards and three black ducks. Based on species limits, the hunters were over their total bag limit by 11 ducks and also over the daily limit on both mallard and black ducks. After being interviewed about the original complaint, the suspect who allegedly dumped the deer carcasses admitted to dumping them, as well, and was also found to have committed tagging violations related to the taking of the deer. The waterfowl were seized as evidence and tickets were issued for taking waterfowl over the daily bag limit, possessing the license or tags of another hunter, and failure to properly tag deer. The men removed the deer carcasses from the creek the following day.
Waterfowl Violations – Suffolk County
ECOs conducted a multi-day investigation into illegal hunting activities on DEC-owned land in the Otis Pike Preserve along the Peconic River in Calverton. On Dec. 10, two ECOs approached hunters on foot with two additional ECOs approaching by kayak. The ECOs observed two hunters in front of a baited duck blind. Their licensed guide was observed hunting upstream of the blind but in an area where the birds’ flight patterns would have been influenced by the illegally placed bait.
ECOs then determined that the guide service, Waterfowlers Edge, based in Ridge, had illegally posted DEC-owned property as the service’s leased land. In total, ECOs issued 10 violations to the men; three violations for duck hunting over a baited area; two violations for unauthorized posting of property; two violations for erecting a structure on state land; and single violations for operating an unregistered vessel, insufficient personal floatation devices, and failure to carry a hunting license.
Each violation carries a potential penalty of up to $250. The three individuals are due to answer to the charges in First District Court in Central Islip on Feb. 15. Individuals who observe illegal environmental activities on Long Island are encouraged to call DEC’s Division of Law Enforcement at (631) 444-0250 on weekdays during business hours and the ECO Hotline (1-844-DEC-ECOS) at all other times. For more information on DEC programs and regulations, please visit DEC’s website.
Illegal Big Game Deer – Sullivan County
On Dec. 10, ECOs Ricky Wood, Matt Burdick, and Matt Baker checked a property in the town of Rockland where ECOs had found illegal bait for deer earlier in the season. The ECOs encountered two hunters with an untagged doe. One of the hunters stated that he had shot the deer a few hours earlier. The hunters insisted that they didn’t hunt over the bait and that they were not the type to break rules. The ECOs then asked to see the hunting stands and the location where the deer was taken. The individuals’ three stands at the top of a ridge all had pre-established bait nearby. Further down the trail, the ECOs discovered another tree stand with a third hunter in it and fresh bait, the same type used earlier in the season at the other tree stands. He also was missing a back tag. The deer was seized as evidence and a total of six tickets were issued to the three hunters for the illegal taking of deer, hunting with the aid of bait, failure to wear a back tag, and failure to tag deer as required. The three hunters were immediately taken before a judge in the town of Rockland, where each pleaded guilty and paid more than $1,500 in fines.
Over the Limit of Bucks – Jefferson County
On the night of Dec. 11, ECO Shea Mathis was on patrol in the town of Watertown when he passed a residence and noticed a set of antlers sticking out from behind a garage. Officer Mathis pulled into the driveway to get a closer look and a man started closing the overhead garage door. However, ECO Mathis was able to spot three deer before it closed. The homeowner insisted all of the deer were legally taken and tagged but upon inspection, ECO Mathis found that two of the deer were untagged. He also found three additional sets of fresh antlers. The homeowner claimed responsibility for one of the bucks but insisted that the other three belonged to a friend. The following day, ECO Mathis interviewed the friend, who admitted to taking the three bucks without tagging them. The two men were issued a total of eight appearance tickets with charges, including the taking of big game in excess of the bag limit, illegally taking deer, failing to tag deer, and possessing a license or tags of another hunter.
Ice Rescue – St. Lawrence County
On Dec. 11, ECO Mike Sherry was patrolling Old Black Lake Road in the town of Macomb when he heard a 911 dispatch call stating that a man that had fallen through the ice at Rollway Bay on Black Lake. ECO Sherry was nearby and the first emergency responder to arrive on scene. He was able to put on his life jacket and throw a bag line out to the victim in the water. A local resident provided ropes and extension cords to assist ECO Sherry. The Morristown Fire and Rescue arrived on scene a short time later and the rescuers pulled the man out of the water. The victim was taken to Claxton Hepburn Medical Center in Ogdensburg, where he was treated for hypothermia and released. The victim had been out with another individual ice fishing at the time of the incident on approximately two inches of ice. The local resident that assisted with the rescue stated that there had been no ice at all on the bay the day before. The ice conditions were unsafe at the time of the rescue and placed all of the rescue personnel in danger.
Interagency Fish Bust – Kings County
On Dec. 14, U.S. Coast Guard members aboard the Cutter Sailfish on patrol near Sandy Hook, New Jersey, attempted to board a vessel for a safety inspection. As they approached the vessel, the vessel operator lifted the anchor and started pulling away. The vessel was eventually stopped and a Coast Guard boarding team conducted an inspection. During a brief interview, the vessel operator was asked if he was in possession of any fish. He indicated that he didn’t have any fish onboard. Upon further inspection, he was found to be in possession of 13 tautog, most of which were undersize. The man was issued a citation for failing to heave and for providing false information to a federal officer. The boarding team then called ECOs, as the vessel was returning to a marina in Kings County. ECO Paul Pasciak responded to the marina, arriving just as the Coast Guard and the vessel approached the dock. ECO Pasciak interviewed the vessel operator and found that he possessed a valid New York State Landing Permit. The evidence was documented and the man was issued two summonses, one for failing to fill out a vessel trip report and one for possession of undersize tautog. The fish were seized and donated to the Bowery Mission.
Tenant Timber Taker – Genesee County
On Dec. 14, ECO Gary Wilson was called to assist with a timber theft in the town of Batavia. The property owner, who lives in Arizona, had received a call from a neighbor reporting that people were logging on her rental property. A Trooper from the New York State Police Barracks in Batavia had responded and interviewed the tenant and the logger. Apparently, the tenant had contracted a logging firm to harvest the mature oak, maple, and black cherry from the owner’s eight acres of land behind the rental house. The tenant went so far as to sign a contract with the logging firm stating that he was the owner of the property and timber and received a $3,100 payment for the timber. Twenty-six trees were felled, amounting to 75 logs destined for the saw mill, some of veneer grade. The tenant was charged with grand larceny by the State Police and charged with taking/causing the illegal removal of timber by ECO Wilson.
The Power of Social Media – Orange County
On Dec. 14, ECO Chris Lattimer was contacted by the Deerpark Police Department regarding six deer carcasses that had been dumped in a creek. Deerpark PD stated that there was no identifiable information found near the deer and they were unable to find any evidence leading to a suspect. With no leads, Deerpark PD then put out a request on their Facebook page asking for the public’s assistance with the case. Multiple credible tips came in to Facebook, the Deerpark PD, and to ECO Lattimer regarding the incident, leading to a suspect. ECO Lattimer was familiar with the suspect and went to his residence to interview him. The suspect denied any knowledge of the deer at first, but later admitted to dumping the deer instead of bringing them to the dump. He stated that five of the deer were shot by him and that the sixth was a road kill. ECO Lattimer asked to see the suspect’s hunting license and tags for the deer he shot. The suspect was unable to provide any proof that he had legally shot the five deer. The hunter was issued appearance tickets for illegally taking protected wildlife (two counts), unlawful disposal of solid waste, taking over the limit of deer, four counts of failing to tag deer as required, three counts of failing to report taking a deer, and possessing the tags of another hunter. All of the tickets are returnable to the Town of Deerpark Court.