On the Frontline with the New York DEC Officers

One week in March includes sea turtle poaching, hawk rescue, more

April 6, 2017

“They work long and arduous hours, both deep in our remote wildernesses and 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.” -- New York DEC Commissioner Basil Seggos

Serving out of 71 chapters throughout the Empire State, New York State Department of Environmental Conservation Officers are on the front line of wildlife and environmental protection.

Here is a glimpse into a week with New York’s Thin Green Line, from the field notes of the officers themselves:

March 19 – Although outside the typical line of duty, ECOS Lucas Palmateer and Michael Hameline were driving on the Brooklyn Queens Expressway when they noticed an older gentleman standing behind a motor vehicle stopped on the shoulder. Stopping to offer assistance, the officers learned that the car belonged to a taxi driver, who had spotted him pushing his walker down a busy highway. The gentleman spoke Spanish, but the taxi driver was able to translate for the officers. It turned out the gentleman had taken the wrong train and got lost while making his way back home to a shelter. The officers drove the man back to the shelter, more than four miles away, where they learned he had left earlier in the day to go dancing.

March 21 – During a foot patrol along the Carmans River in Southaven County Park, ECO Chris Amato spotted a red-tailed hawk rolling down the hill in front of him. Upon inspecting the bird, Amato noticed its injured wing and called for the assistance of a local wildlife rehabilitator. Amato and ECO Nate Godson captured the injured hawk, and it was taken to the Selden Emergency Animal Hospital before being transferred for rehabilitation.

March 22 – A routine walk through an antique shop in Queens County resulted in the discovery of 13 pieces of ivory and two sea turtle carapaces (the upper shell). ECOs Adam Johnson and Spencer Noyes had just finished conducting pesticide sales enforcement when they took a stroll through the shop looking for ivory. Instead, the officers came upon the carapaces of both a green sea turtle and a hawksbill sea turtle, both illegal to possess without a permit. ECOs Zach Brown, Lucas Palmateer and Jarred Lomozik were called to assist, and the officers additionally confiscated 13 assorted pieces of ivory. The owner was ticketed for possession of threatened or endangered species or their parts without a permit and for the illegal sale of ivory.

ECOs Noyes, Johnson, Lomozik, Palmateer, and Brown with the sea turtle shells.

March 23 – An anonymous tip suggesting the poaching of a five-point buck led ECO Matt Krug to the home of a 25-year-old Jackson woman. When interviewed by Krug, the woman initially said the deer had been shot by her father, and he had given her the antlers. After a quick search, Krug discovered her father had not reported any deer since 2013. It was at that point that the woman admitted to the killing of the deer behind her father’s house in White Creek. She told Krug that she did not have a hunting license because she had never taken a hunter’s education course. The deer mount was taken as evidence and the woman was ticketed for illegally taking a whitetail deer and hunting without a license. She is scheduled to appear in the White Creek Town Court on April 20.

March 24 – While patrolling at the Hudson River Dock in Bear Mountain State Park, ECO Maxwell Nicols witnessed four men fishing on a dock. One of the men left twice carrying fish (one was a striped bass) and returned both times empty-handed. Striped bass season doesn’t officially open until April 1, so Nicols approached the men who denied catching any fish. Nicols called for help, and ECO Ricky Wood and K-9 Deming, the first K-9 certified in detecting striped bass, came to assist in the search. Deming quickly alerted Wood to an area covered in snow. Underneath, were five striped bass and two catfish. The men then admitted to catching the fish. All four were ticketed for fishing without licenses, possession of striped bass out of season and illegal taking of catfish. They are scheduled to appear in Stony Point Town Court in May.

March 25 – It isn’t often DEC officers get called to prisons, but ECO Joel Schneller was called to the Ogdensburg Correctional Facility for a break-in, rather than a break-out. A racoon had entered prison grounds and perched itself atop a gate. Schneller was able to capture and remove the racoon from the prison, releasing the animal in the nearby woods.

The Ogdensburg racoon 'doing time.'

March 26 – On snowmobile patrol between Essex and Franklin counties, ECOs Nathan Favreau and Jeffrey Hovey came upon a snowmobile on Pine Pond. Nearby, a man was ice fishing with tip-ups and live minnows. Ice fishing is prohibited on the trout and salmon pond, as is the use of live bait. The man claimed to be unaware of fishing regulations and was ticketed for ice fishing in closed waters, possession of baitfish in prohibited waters and failure to exhibit a baitfish receipt. He is scheduled to appear in Town of Harrieststown Court on April 17.

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