ALBANY, NY — New York State Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) Forest Rangers respond to search and rescue incidents statewide. Working with other state agencies, local emergency response organizations, and volunteer search and rescue groups, Forest Rangers locate and extract lost, injured, or distressed people from across New York State.
In 2020, DEC Forest Rangers conducted 492 search and rescue missions, extinguished 192 wildfires that burned a total of more than 1,122 acres, participated in eight prescribed fires that served to rejuvenate more than 203 acres, and worked on cases that resulted in 3,131 tickets or arrests.
“During New York’s response to the COVID-19 pandemic, more people are enjoying the outdoors than ever before and our Forest Rangers are on the front lines to help people get outside responsibly and get home safely,” said DEC Commissioner Basil Seggos. “Rangers’ knowledge of first aid, land navigation, and technical rescue techniques are critical to the success of their missions, which for more than a century have taken them from remote wilderness areas with rugged mountain peaks, to white water rivers, and throughout our vast forests statewide.”
Town of Lyonsdale
Wilderness Rescue: On Oct. 11 at 3:13 p.m., Forest Ranger Hanno overheard radio traffic about an injured hiker along the Moose River. Ranger Hanno responded to the location and assisted the Port Leyden Fire Department and Lewis County Search and Rescue with packaging the 65-year-old woman from Port Lyden into a litter. The subject fell and injured her right wrist, ankle, and head while hiking. At 4:31 p.m., the injured hiker and rescue personnel were out of the woods and a Port Leyden Ambulance transported the hiker to a local hospital for treatment.
Town of Osceola
Wilderness Rescue: On Oct. 16 at 10:30 a.m., Lewis County 911 contacted DEC’s Ray Brook Dispatch reporting a lost hunter in the East Fish Creek Easement. Forest Ranger Hanno and Lt. Nowalk responded to the coordinates provided by 911. Once on scene, Rangers found the hunter’s vehicle and proceeded toward a cellphone ping locating the 35-year-old man from Benson, VT, about one mile away along the Salmon River. At 1:55 p.m., the hunter and Rangers were out of the woods and clear of the scene.
Town of Webb
Wilderness Rescue: On Oct. 17 at 11:08 p.m., Herkimer County 911 contacted Ray Brook Dispatch reporting a 52-year-old man from Lowville was overdue from hunting. The hunter’s family became concerned when he didn’t return after dark and they located his vehicle at the intersection of Stillwater and Basket Factory roads in the Independence River Wild Forest. County 911 advised that an officer from the Town of Webb Police Department was responding to the intersection to meet the reporting party. Forest Rangers Hanno and Thomes responded to assist. At 1:05 a.m., Ranger Hanno advised Dispatch that they guided the missing hunter out to their location using sirens. The subject was in good health and required no additional assistance.
Town of Birdsall
Marijuana Eradication and Arrest: On Oct. 14, Forest Rangers Hettenbaugh and Thaine patrolled Gas Springs State Forest to eradicate previously identified and well-tended marijuana plants. While approaching the site, Ranger Hettenbaugh noticed some of the plants were removed and heard someone running through the woods. The Ranger chased after the subject and quickly located one individual on the ground. Ranger Thaine took custody of the first subject and Ranger Hettenbaugh pursued and caught a second individual. The Rangers made arrests for violations on State Lands and contacted New York State Police, which handled the public health and penal law charges. State Police seized the plants for evidence.
Marijuana plants seized from Gas Springs State Forest West Canada Lake and Silver Lake Wilderness
Lean-to and Bridge Repair: On Oct. 14, Region 5 Forest Rangers, with the assistance of DEC Foresters and New York State Police (NYSP) Aviation, conducted sling load missions in the West Canada Lake Wilderness and Silver Lake Wilderness to repair lean-tos and bridges. The lean-tos, primitive tent sites, and bridges in these wilderness areas provide many opportunities for long-distance, overnight loop hikes from many trailheads.
Rangers team with DEC Foresters and NYSP Aviation to repair wilderness area lean-tos and bridges
Town of Lake George
Wilderness Rescue: On Oct. 15 at 10:50 a.m., Warren County 911 transferred a call to DEC’s Ray Brook Dispatch from a 29-year-old runner from Brooklyn lost on an old forest road on the side of Prospect Mountain. Coordinates placed the runner close to the road, but without a map or compass to navigate the area, Forest Ranger Donegan responded to assist. At 11:58 a.m., Ranger Donegan located the runner at the coordinates provided by 911 and both were back out to Memorial Highway and clear of the scene at 12:20 p.m.
Town of Newcomb
Wilderness Rescue: On Oct. 16 at 1:50 p.m., DEC’s Ray Brook Dispatch received a report from passing hikers that a person with a dislocated shoulder was requesting assistance on the Opalescent Trail in the High Peaks Wilderness Area. Operations Caretakers Engel and Bastien responded from the Lake Colden Outpost and intercepted the injured hiker on the lower section of the Opalescent Trail. Due to severe thunderstorms, the caretakers planned to return to the outpost with the injured hiker. Once at the outpost, they successfully provided first aid to the dislocated shoulder of the 31-year-old woman from Albany. After the storms passed, the caretakers and the hiker met up with Forest Ranger Martin and Assistant Forest Ranger Adams near the trailhead. At 7:15 p.m., the hikers and rescuers were out to the trailhead and the patient transferred to Newcomb Ambulance for transport to a local hospital.
Speculator Tree Farm
Storm Damage Response: On Oct. 16 at 4:07 p.m., Forest Rangers Thompson and Scott assisted the Speculator and Lake Pleasant Fire Departments, town workers, and the Hamilton County Sheriff’s Office with tree removal from the roadways in the Speculator Tree Farm. Trees fell during a storm and trapped several hunters and an Environmental Conservation Police Officer (ECO). No injuries or property damage were reported, but the tree prevented their ability to leave the property. At 5:07 p.m., all roadways were clear of trees and everyone trapped was out safely.
Town of Hunter
Dog Rescue: On Oct. 17 at 4:15 p.m., Greene County 911 contacted Forest Ranger Fox about a dog that fell into a cistern at the Kaaterskill Hotel site. Ranger Fox and Assistant Forest Ranger France responded to the location to assess the situation, along with Forest Rangers Martin, Mitchell, and Skudlarek. Once on scene, Ranger Fox found the dog and repelled down to the bottom of the well. Ranger Fox determined the dog was uninjured before tying a webbing harness onto the 65-pound husky. The Rangers lifted the dog to the top of the well and reunited her with her owner. All units were clear of the incident by 8 p.m.
Cistern where dog fell
Husky at bottom of the well prior to rescue
Town of Lake Luzerne
Wilderness Rescue: On Oct. 17 at 7:10 p.m., Warren County 911 transferred a call to DEC’s Ray Brook Dispatch reporting a 75-year-old man from Lake Luzerne had injured his left arm after falling in the woods. The caller advised he was having difficulty walking and attributed it to his diabetes. Forest Rangers Donegan and Savarie responded to the hiker’s location, stabilized his injury, and escorted him out of the woods at 8:45 p.m. The Rangers gave the subject a courtesy ride back to his home where he advised he would seek further medical assistance on his own.
Town of Conewango
Wilderness Search: On Oct. 18 at 2:30 a.m., Forest Rangers Krulish and Kennedy responded to a search for a 25-year-old man from Conewango who had walked away from his home. Attempts from friends and neighbors to locate the subject on Sunday evening were not successful. Forest Rangers instructed the searchers to look in the houses and barns of anyone with ties to the young man. Early on Monday morning, the subject was located in a relative’s home and Rangers were clear of the scene at 6:30 a.m.
Be sure to properly prepare and plan before entering the backcountry. Visit DEC’s Hike Smart NY, Adirondack Backcountry Information and Ca
tskill Backcountry Information webpages for more information.
If a person needs a Forest Ranger, whether it’s for a search and rescue, to report a wildfire, or to report illegal activity on state lands and easements, they should call 833-NYS-RANGERS. If a person needs urgent assistance, they can call 911. To contact a Forest Ranger for information about a specific location, the DEC website has phone numbers for every Ranger listed by region: https://www.dec.ny.