DEC: Illegal burn leads to deer case in St. Lawrence County

ALBANY, NY — 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 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:

On Sept. 28, ECO Scott Atwood was on patrol in the town of Pitcairn when he noticed a strong odor of burning debris that seemed to be coming from behind a camp. When ECO Atwood reached the camp, he observed smoke coming from an ATV trail. There were also bags of corn stacked up on the ground and in the back of a pickup truck and a bow case sitting on top of the bags. The officer followed fresh ATV tracks from the camp, which led him to a smoldering pile of debris, including empty corn bags. ECO Atwood continued past the debris and reached an elevated enclosed hunting stand. He observed a hanging feeder and watched as an individual exited the stand and disappeared into the woods with a rifle slung over his shoulder. The subject appeared to be tracking an animal. ECO Atwood approached the man and after a short conversation, determined he had killed a four-point buck with a crossbow over an area baited with corn and apples after legal shooting hours. The deer was recovered and seized and a total of six tickets were issued to the man for killing deer except as permitted, hunting deer pursuant to a bow stamp while in possession of a firearm, hunting deer with the aid of bait, taking deer other than during permitted hours, taking deer by a means not specified, and failing to carry his hunting license and tags. ECO Atwood returned the next day and met with the property owner who admitted to starting the fire that had drawn the officer’s attention. One ticket was issued to the property owner for unlawful open burning of refuse material. The deer was donated to a local community organization.

On Sept. 28, ECOs Steve Lakeman and Rob Howe responded to a report of an owl stuck in a foothold trap behind a house in the town of Deerfield. As the ECOs approached the bird, the officers could see the owl’s right talon was caught in the trap, preventing it from flying. The ECOs netted the owl with a fishing net and carefully released the trap. The owl took a few hops, looked back at the ECOs for a moment, and flew away, appearing healthy and unharmed. There were no tags on the trap to identify who had set it. The trap appeared to be extremely old and had most likely been left in the woods for years. The ECOs removed the illegal trap.