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 2021, 282 Environmental Conservation Police Officers (ECOs) and Investigators across the state responded to 26,207 calls and worked on cases that resulted in 11,562 tickets or arrests for violations ranging from deer poaching to solid waste dumping, illegal mining, the black market pet trade, and excessive emissions violations.
“DEC Environmental Conservation Police Officers and Investigators are on the front lines each and every day protecting our natural resources by upholding New York’s environmental laws and regulations and safeguarding public health,” DEC Commissioner Basil Seggos said. “From ensuring hunters and anglers follow rules and regulations afield and on the water, to sustaining partnerships with local law enforcement agencies investigating crimes that include solid waste dumping and air emissions violations, ECOs and Investigators are on patrol, ready to serve their communities. Each year brings new challenges, and fortunately, these Officers and Investigators are expertly trained to perform their duties with persistence, integrity, and good judgment, as they’ve done for over a century.”
Drone Training – Oneida County
From June 2 to 5, members of DEC’s Division of Law Enforcement drone team, along with New York State Police and the Town of Colonie Police Department, presented at the 2022 New York State Technical Rescue Conference at the State Preparedness Training Center in Oriskany. ECOs presented on the critical role of drones during investigations. ECOs demonstrated scenario-based and hands-on drone training, ranging from hazmat responses and emergency operations, to structural collapse situations and flooded environments. This is the first time drones were a topic of discussion at the conference.
Illegal Charter Boat – Bronx County
On June 5, ECOs Currey and Michalet followed up on complaints about an unlicensed party boat operating out of the Bronx and observed the suspected vessel captain operating an illegal fishing trip with three fares on board. DEC contacted the U.S. Coast Guard at Kings Point to assist with the response. A search of the boat resulted in the captain admitting he unlawfully received payments for fishing trips. The Officers ticketed the subject for operation of an unlicensed party/charter boat, returnable to Bronx Criminal Court; the U.S. Coast Guard also issued a citation. Unlicensed charters often lack the proper license exams and inspections that ensure passengers and crew members are safe.
Raccoon Goes to a Pet Store – Erie and Wyoming Counties
On June 2, ECO Damrath received an urgent call from the Erie County Department of Health requesting assistance locating a potentially rabid raccoon. Raccoons are a rabies vector species and therefore considered a dangerous wild animal in New York State. According to the county, a man and his girlfriend took the animal to a pet store to get food and supplies, and one of the store’s employees contacted authorities. Using store surveillance cameras, a store-issued rewards card, and license plate information, ECO Damrath tracked down the raccoon’s owner to Attica in Wyoming County and convinced the subject to turn over the raccoon. ECO Damrath transported the animal to a veterinary hospital for testing. Damrath charged two individuals for unlawfully possessing the raccoon and the owners each face a $500 fine. Rabies test results for the raccoon were negative. DEC urges the public to leave wild animals alone. Possessing wild animals is not only unlawful, doing so can be deadly. Once a rabies infection is established, there’s no effective treatment.
Annual Fishing Event for Children with Special Needs – Saratoga County
On June 4, ECOs Shaw and Manns, along with Saratoga County 4H, held their 10th Annual Special Needs Kids Fishing Event at the 4H Training Center in the town of Milton. Nearly 25 children between the ages of two and 16 attended. ECOs and volunteers assisted the kids with baiting hooks, casting lines, and landing fish throughout the day. After lunch, Officers handed out a rod and reel to each child to take home. The pond was stocked with trout by a local fish hatchery and an ice cream truck made a surprise appearance. All the children and their families vowed to return next year.
Situational Awareness Training – DEC Region 2
On June 7, ECOs conducted a class on Situational Awareness where Officers encouraged New York City-area employees from DEC and the State Department of Transportation to learn how to pick up physical clues of assaultive subjects and be aware of their surroundings during site visits, inspections, and even the daily commute. Approximately 50 staff attended the training, asking questions and engaging in conversation with the purpose of keeping all members safe while at work and in their day-to-day lives.
Sinking Vessel – Fulton County
On June 8, ECO Pasciak responded to a radio call for a vessel in distress on the Great Sacandaga Lake. The vessel, occupied by a mother and her two children, began taking on water for unknown reasons. ECO Pasciak rushed to his patrol vessel and joined the response with the Fulton County Sheriff’s Office, Broadalbin Fire Department, Edinburg Fire Department, and Fulton County Office of Emergency Management. As ECO Pasciak arrived on scene, a good samaritan came to aid the sinking vessel and started towing it back to shore. Officer Pasciak and his patrol vessel took over and brought the passengers safely back to shore.
Outdoors Day at North-South Lake Campground – Greene County
On June 11, Lt. Glorioso and ECOs Palmateer and Doig attended and assisted DEC’s bureaus of Wildlife and Fisheries at the “Get Outdoors and Get Together Day” at North-South Lake Campground and Day Use Area in the town of Hunter. The family-friendly event encouraged people to get outside and enjoy outdoor recreational activities, including fishing, archery, and hiking. The Officers assisted attendees with fishing techniques, provided archery range safety, and answered questions.
Get Outdoors – Nassau County
On June 11, ECOs Macropoulos and Small assisted at Get Outdoors and Get Together Day at Hempstead Lake State Park. The event, hosted by DEC and State Parks in partnership with the Office for People with Developmental Disabilities, provided freshwater fishing, camping, and kayaking demonstrations to introduce people to the great outdoors. ECOs educated attendees trying out the kayaks and learning to fish.
Pygmy Sperm Whale – Kings County
On June 12, ECOs received reports of a possible dolphin in distress in Plumb Beach on Jamaica Bay. Officers Currey and Veloski responded to the area and determined it was pygmy sperm whale, not much larger than most dolphins. Despite multiple attempts to save the whale, it became stranded and died. ECOs secured the site and contacted the Atlantic Marine Conservation Society to perform a necropsy. The cause of death is pending. If you witness a marine mammal in distress, please call New York State’s 24-hour stranding hotline at 1-(631)-369-9829 or contact the DEC’s 24-hour Law Enforcement Dispatch Center at 1-(844)-332-3267.
Full Day of Sharks, Lobster, Seabass, Fluke, and Tuna – Nassau County
On June 14, ECOs Pabes and Kochanowski conducted a boat patrol of Jones Inlet and the Atlantic Ocean in Nassau County. Throughout the day, ECOs conducted multiple recreational and commercial fishing checks of American lobster, black sea bass, summer flounder, bluefin tuna, and thresher shark. ECOs issued tickets for undersized summer flounder and out-of-season black sea bass. A case involving the possession of the thresher shark is being turned over to the National Oceanic Atmospheric Administration for potential federal violations. As a reminder, all anglers are required to obtain a federal Atlantic Highly Migratory Species permit to fish for shark, tuna, and swordfish.
New ECO Recruits Swear-in – Oswego County
Nineteen recruits at DEC’s Division of Law Enforcement (DLE) training academy in Pulaski are one step closer to becoming full-fledged ECOs. On June 16, the new recruits from 15 counties were sworn in at a ceremony attended by Commissioner Seggos and DLE Director Przyklek. Upon completion of the academy, recruits will log 1,520 hours of training performing ECO job duties to enforce New York State Environmental Conservation Law. Responsibilities include enforcing deer poaching, solid waste dumping, illegal mining, black market pet trade, and emissions violations. For video of Commissioner Seggos and DLE Director Przyklek saying a few words to the new recruits during the swearing-in ceremony go to https://youtu.be/9hrnCuv7t1o.
New ECO recruits being sworn in (photo attached)
Rescued Gosling in Argyle Lake – Suffolk County
On June 16, Region 1 Dispatch notified ECO Dickson of a bird in Argyle Lake with a fishing lure stuck in its beak. Officer Dickson responded and located an injured gosling swimming near the shore by a bridge. ECO Dickson contacted Wildlife Rehabilitator Bobby Horvath to assist with the rescue. Together, Officer Dickson and the Wildlife Rehabilitator caught the baby goose, clipped the hook, and released the gosling back into Argyle Lake.
That’s a Short Charter – Nassau County
On June 17, ECOs Dickson, Kochanowski, and Cacciola conducted a marine fishing enforcement on the waters of Hempstead Bay in Nassau County. During their patrol, the Officers checked vessels for required safety gear and inspected fish on board to ensure all anglers were following State fishing guidelines. The ECOs discovered 10 undersized fluke on two different boats and issued tickets for possessing fluke under the legal limit of 18.5 inches, as well as a summons for failure to have a valid distress signal. All violations are returnable to Nassau County District Court.
Father’s Day Fishing – Saratoga County
On June 18, ECOs Leubner and Doroski attended the annual Father’s Day Fishing Derby at the Saratoga Eagles Club. Dads, along with their sons and daughters, spent a beautiful day trying to hook a big one. All participants received free food and prizes at the annual event that encourages fathers and their children to bond over a fun outdoor activity. DEC sponsors several free fishing clinics throughout the state where possession of a fishing license is not required. Details on Free Fishing Clinics are available on DEC’s website.
Kids Getting Fishy with It – Franklin County
ECO Okonuk helped introduce young people to the great sport of fishing at recent community events. The ECO attended the Hendrickson Hatch, Catch, and Release Fly Fishing Tournament in early June in the town of Malone, Franklin County. The tournament awards the top three finishers based on the total inches of the top five fish an angler catches. The young anglers caught and released a total of 109 trout over 12 inches. Officer Okonuk also assisted with the Malone Fish and Game Club Fishing Derby at the village pond. Eighty-five children entered the derby and caught 20 trout. The club has hosted the event for more than 50 years.
Hudson River Spill – Greene County
On June 20 at approximately 7:25 p.m., Lieutenant Glorioso and ECOs Palmateer and Smith received a request from Greene County 911 to respond to a diesel spill in the Catskill Creek in the village of Catskill. ECOs on Hudson River boat patrol and DEC’s Spill Responders immediately responded to assist the local emergency response personnel already at the incident. ECOs used the patrol vessel to deploy approximately 150 feet of hard boom and 75 feet of absorbent boom to contain the spill. A vessel docked nearby was identified as the source. One of the vessel’s stainless steel diesel tanks leaked and its bilge pump, set to run automatically, pumped out an unknown amount of diesel into the creek. The bilge pump was immediately turned off and absorbent pads were placed in the bottom of the engine compartment. The valve to the leaking tank was shut off and the leak was stopped. DEC will continue to monitor the cleanup to ensure it is protective of public health and the environment.
Nothing But Net – Greene/Columbia Counties
During that same patrol on the Hudson River in Greene and Columbia counties, Lieutenant Glorioso and ECOs Smith and Palmateer observed a small boat operated by two subjects in a popular fishing location, while two other individuals fished from the shore. The Officers noticed the pair on the boat tending a gill net, which is a violation. Lt. Glorioso operated the boat while ECOs Smith and Palmateer went ashore. The Officers located multiple buckets and stringers holding several different species of fish including carp, catfish, pumpkinseed, Atlantic menhaden, herring, gizzard shad, and smallmouth bass. The Officers issued seven tickets to the subjects for the illegal use of a gill net, fishing without freshwater fishing licenses, fishing without marine registries, possession of undersized smallmouth bass, and insufficient Personal Floating Devices aboard the vessel. Video of the officers pulling the net from the Hudson River can be found here.
Ivory Bust – New York County
A New York City store owner recently paid a fine for illegally selling elephant ivory. On Nov. 23, 2021, Investigator Harvey and ECO Brussel performed a plainclothes inspection of the Manhattan Art and Antique Center. During the inspection, the Officers witnessed what appeared to be multiple elephant ivory articles on display, including a large ivory pagoda. After performing license checks and online surveillance, Investigator Harvey returned to the shop with ECO Parmelee. Once the Officers confirmed the items were available for purchase, they identified themselves and notified the owner of the investigation. The owner agreed to sign a consent order, relinquish the pieces, and pay a fine of $21,000.
Fancy Fur – New York County
The owners of another New York City store, accused of making and selling fur from a threatened and endangered species, paid fines recently following an undercover investigation. In September 2021, Investigator Harvey received a complaint that a store in Manhattan was selling fur coats made from Canada lynx. The Investigator set up a private meeting with store employees and even went through a series of fittings and consultations with the assistance of ECO Brussel before all parties agreed on a custom fur coat and price of $2,600. Once the Officer received an invoice for the coat, they identified themselves and seized 11 Canada lynx pelts. The owners of the store agreed to sign a consent order and paid $5,500 in fines.