DEC Environmental Conservation Police Officer Highlights

New York State Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) Environmental Conservation Police Officers (ECOs) enforce the 71 Chapters of NY Environmental Conservation Law (ECL), 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 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 DEC 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:

Assisting Conservation Officers from Other States – Warren and Schenectady Counties
On Jan. 6, ECO Chris Valenty interviewed a resident of Glenville after receiving a request from Ohio Conservation Officers to assist with an investigation of an illegally killed doe. ECO Valenty obtained the subject’s confession, and the subject admitted to shooting a doe deer without a valid permit for the animal. The information was turned over to Ohio Conservation Officers for prosecution. Also in January, ECOs Alan Brassard and George Lapoint assisted the Maine Warden Service in the investigation of a deer shot from the road in Allagash, Maine. The Maine Warden Services’ investigation had determined the deer was shot by a subject from Glens Falls, who had returned to New York the same night. ECOs Brassard and Lapoint interviewed the suspect and obtained a confession after evidence gathered in Maine was presented to the suspect. On Jan. 18, ECO Brassard served paperwork to the subject on behalf of Maine authorities charging him with unlawful shooting/discharge from a public highway, unlawful possession of a wild animal, passing a tagging station without tagging a deer, and unsworn falsification. The officers found no violations of New York laws during either investigation.

Clams and Beer, A Perfect Combination – Bronx County
On Jan. 8, ECOs Michael Wozniak, Ryan Kelley, and Adam Muchow conducted fish market inspections in the Bronx looking for violations such as untagged shellfish, improper/unsafe storage of shellfish, and undersized fish. Three bushels of shellfish were seized and destroyed when the ECOs found clams being stored directly on the ground in a puddle of water. A summons was issued to the market for failure to prevent the contamination of shellfish. As the officers continued their patrol, ECO Wozniak noticed three men walking with an overflowing shopping cart full of cases of beer. The ECOs stopped to inquire about the beer and noticed that in the distance, a rail car had been broken into. The three suspects were detained and ECOs Zachary Kochanowski and Connor Dodge, Amtrak Police, and CSX Railroad Police were contacted for assistance. Amtrak Police arrested the three suspects on charges including petit larceny, reckless endangerment, criminal possession of stolen property, and criminal trespassing.

Post-Season Deer Hunting – Westchester County
On Jan. 8, ECO Kevin Wamsley was contacted by the Tarrytown Police Department reporting an individual who had shot a deer in a residential area and was in the process of cutting it up. ECO Wamsley responded to the location, met with Tarrytown Police Officers, and was shown to an area under a deck with a large amount of blood and deer hair. ECO Wamsley interviewed the suspect, who claimed he had shot the deer that morning because it had been eating a bush in his backyard. However, deer season in Westchester County had closed on Dec. 31. ECO Wamsley found two piles of bait at the exact location where the deer was shot with a bow from the second floor balcony. The deer carcass and an axe that had been used to quickly cut the meat into smaller pieces was in the individual’s garage. The officers also found a bag of deer feed the individual admitted to placing in the backyard. The nearest neighboring house was only 73 feet from where the bow was discharged, and the individual did not have permission from either of the neighbors to shoot a bow within 150 feet of their homes. The individual was issued four summonses returnable to the Village of Tarrytown Court, including discharging a bow within 150 feet of a dwelling, illegally killing a protected species, hunting deer with the aid of bait, and taking of an antlerless deer out of season. The deer was seized and donated.

Deer Poacher Leaves Easy Trail – Greene County
On Jan. 10, ECO Mike Arp received information from an off-duty Windham police officer that a subject had shot a deer at a residence in Windham. Local police were on scene and had secured evidence and the firearm involved when ECO Arp arrived. A bloody drag mark was visible in the snow going up the driveway and into the garage. The resident admitted to the ECO that he had shot the deer and the officers issued tickets for taking big game during the closed season and hunting big game without a valid license. The firearm and deer carcass were seized as evidence.

Polluter Caught on Town Property – Orange County
On Jan. 11, ECO Jon Walraven received a call from the Town of Goshen Highway Department about piles of trash found dumped on town property. ECO Walraven found several trash bags, along with tires and some furniture. Several packages among the trash contained the name and address of a potential responsible party. ECO Walraven went to the address on the package and met with the property owner, who claimed responsibility for the trash and stated that her son was supposed to take the trash to the dump. ECO Walraven interviewed the property owner’s son, who admitted to dumping the trash at the location because the transfer station was closed. ECO Walraven issued the son a ticket for unlawful disposal of solid waste, which carries a possible fine of $15,000 per day, and instructed him to clean up the mess. The ticket is returnable to the Town of Goshen Court in February.

DNA Testing Leads to Illegal Deer Hunting Charges – Washington County
In November, ECO Steve Gonyeau was notified that a deer had been shot at 1:30 a.m., in a field in Fort Ann. Neighbors had heard the shot and witnessed a vehicle enter the field, load a deer, and speed away. The officer found blood near tire tracks in the field and collected it as evidence. An investigation by ECOs Gonyeau and Marcia Goodrich identified a suspect and led to a local venison processor, where a 10-point buck had been delivered with the tag of the subject’s mother. Matching trail camera photos of the buck were obtained from the property owner’s caretaker and compared. The officers seized the deer as evidence and took DNA samples from the meat and hide. When the ECOs met the subject, he admitted to taking the deer but stated that he did not shoot it at night and, since his regular season buck tag was already filled, his mother went to the local Walmart to buy her hunting license to get a tag for the deer. The subject maintained that he did not shoot the deer at night. The DNA results confirmed a match between the blood gathered in the field and the evidence taken from the carcass. The subject’s mother confirmed he had shot the deer and she had given him her tag because she can’t hunt anymore. The shooter was issued tickets for shooting after hours, hunting with the aid of a light, taking an illegal buck deer, discharging within 500 feet of a dwelling, and illegal tagging. The mother was issued the same tickets as an accessory to the crime. On Jan. 16, both parties appeared in the Fort Ann Town Court where the shooter, who had previously stated he would pay his mother’s fines, agreed to a civil settlement and $1,332.50 in penalties, which included half of the cost of the DNA testing. His mother did not agree with the civil settlement proposed and her case was adjourned to a later date.