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 2019, DEC Forest Rangers conducted 337 search and rescue missions, extinguished 74 wildfires that burned a total of 212 acres, participated in 29 prescribed fires that burned and rejuvenated 645 acres, and worked on cases that resulted in 2,507 tickets or arrests.
“DEC celebrates our 50th anniversary this year, but our Forest Rangers have been on the front lines for even longer, protecting New York’s wildlife, natural resources, residents, and visitors for more than a century,” said DEC Commissioner Basil Seggos. “The State’s brave Forest Rangers have a vast knowledge of first aid, land navigation, and technical rescue techniques that are critical to the success of their missions in remote wilderness areas, rugged mountainous peaks, white water rivers, frozen lakes, and forested areas statewide. We are proud of the work our Forest Rangers perform and look forward to another 50 years and beyond of highly trained service.”
Town of Patterson
Community Outreach: On Sept. 26, Forest Ranger Pries, along with ECOs Tompkins and Crisafulli, joined the Putnam County Federation of Sportsmen’s Clubs for the annual youth pheasant hunt at the Great Swamp Wildlife Management Area. Every year, children aged 12 to 15 have the chance to experience pheasant hunting the weekend prior to the opening of the season. This gives first-time youth hunters a better chance at a successful hunt and helps keep young people engaged in the sport. Annually, the federation sponsors a youth hunt on this weekend after obtaining a permit from DEC to buy and release pheasants on State Lands to increase the kids’ chances. Volunteers also donate their time by bringing trained dogs to further increase the kids’ chance of a successful hunt. This year, approximately 15 kids attended the hunt and each was able to take a pheasant, many for the first time. ECOs Tompkins and Crisafulli and Ranger Pries walked the fields and helped flush pheasants. The Officers shared hunting safety tips with the youth hunters.
Town of North Elba
Wilderness Rescue: On Oct. 1 at 5:42 p.m., DEC’s Ray Brook Dispatch received a call from a 65-year-old hiker from Long Meadow, Massachusetts, reporting he had injured his ankle near MacIntyre Falls. The hiker said his hiking party braced his injury and he would hobble down the trail with them. Forest Ranger LaPierre responded, hiking up the trail to the man’s location while Forest Rangers Evans, Burns, Gliddi, and Booth came in with a six-wheel ATV. Once on scene, Ranger LaPierre splinted the injury and assisted the hiking party to the Whales Tail Junction where they were met by the secondary group of Rangers and driven out to the trailhead to their vehicle.
Town of Hunter
Wilderness Search: On Oct. 1 at 7:08 p.m., Greene County 911 contacted DEC’s Central Dispatch for a report of two lost hikers (husband and wife) who entered the woods near the trailhead at Platte Clove and Prediger roads. The couple had been following the Blue Trail before veering off and indicated they had water, as well as their dog. Forest Ranger Fox responded, arriving to the hikers’ location at 9 p.m. Once with the hiking party, the Ranger provided them with headlamps and they proceeded to hike out to the trailhead. Everyone was out of the woods at 9:15 p.m.
Town of Bolton
Wilderness Rescue: On Oct. 2 at 9:30 p.m., Warren County 911 transferred a call to DEC’s Ray Brook Dispatch from two hikers who became disoriented on Pole Hill Pond. The hikers, from Brookhaven, did not have a light source or warm clothing with them as temperatures dropped. Dispatch advised the hikers to stay where they were until help arrived. Warren County 911 shared coordinates to the hikers’ location as their only working cell phone battery died. Forest Rangers Donegan and Kabrehl responded to assist, arriving on scene at 10:30 p.m. Voice contact was made at 12:15 a.m., and the hikers were found off the trail at 12:33 a.m. Forest Rangers escorted the couple back to their vehicle at the trailhead.
Town of North Elba
Wilderness Rescue: On Oct. 3 at 10:27 a.m., DEC’s Ray Brook Dispatch received a call reporting a hiker had suffered an ankle injury on the trail for Phelps Mountain in the High Peaks Wilderness Area. Forest Rangers Mecus and Balerno responded with New York State Police Aviation while Forest Ranger Burns assembled a ground crew for a carry-out as a backup. Once a safe opening occurred, Ranger Mecus was lowered to the injured hiker and with the assistance of Assistant Forest Ranger Engel and Marcy Dam Caretaker Kelly, placed the hiker into a harness to hoist up to the helicopter. The 50-year-old hiker from Buffalo was flown to a local hospital for medical treatment.
Town of Hunter/Kaaterskill Wild Forest
Wilderness Rescue: On Oct. 3 at 1 p.m., Greene County 911 called Forest Ranger Fox regarding an injured hiker on the Kaaterskill Falls Trail. Ranger Fox arrived at 1:05 p.m., and assisted with the carry-out of the 65-year-old hiker from Sunnyside. The hiker fell backward off Bastion Falls approximately 20 feet, resulting in serious physical injuries. The hiker was placed in a litter, carried out to the road at 1:15 p.m., and was transported by Hunter Ambulance to a waiting helicopter headed to a local hospital.
Town of Schroon
Wilderness Rescue: On Oct. 3 at 1:31 p.m., Essex County 911 transferred a call to DEC’s Ray Brook Dispatch from a hiker lost while hiking out to the trailhead on Crane Pond Road. After numerous attempts, 911 advised that they were not able to obtain coordinates for the hiker’s location. The 39-year-old from Cheshire, Connecticut, believed he was somewhere in the woods northeast of Glidden Marsh. Forest Rangers Arnold and Perryman, along with Assistant Forest Ranger Gonyeau, searched the area with negative results. Rangers hiked out due to darkness and resumed search operations at daylight with State Police Aviation on standby. While Essex County 911 had Verizon ping the lost man’s cell phone, the hiker texted Forest Rangers his coordinates from the compass application on his phone. The coordinates from the phone were 3.4 miles away from the coordinates provided by Verizon. Forest Rangers responded to the coordinates given by the camper, made initial voice contact at 9:05 a.m., and at 9:40 a.m., Forest Ranger Quinn located the hiker and escorted him out of the woods by 12:35 p.m.
Town of Clifton
St. Lawrence County
Wilderness Rescue: On Oct. 3 at 4:21 p.m., St. Lawrence 911 transferred a call to DEC’s Ray Brook Dispatch reporting that a hiker on the Cranberry 50 had injured his back and could not walk due to the pain. Forest Rangers Baldwin and Morehouse responded by boat with members of the Cranberry Lake and Star Lake Fire Departments. Once on scene, the 62-year-old hiker from Wilton, Connecticut, was packaged into the litter, put in the boat, and driven back to shore. Once on shore, the injured hiker was turned over to the Star Lake Ambulance for transport to a local hospital.
Town of Middletown
Wilderness Search: On Oct. 3 at 7:45 p.m., Delaware County 911 contacted Forest Ranger Seeley regarding two hikers lost in the Dry Brook Ridge Wild Forest. The couple, from Otego and Unadilla, were hiking the Huckleberry Loop Trail when it became dark and lost the trail due to not having a light source. Ranger Seeley arrived on scene at 8:50 p.m., along with two New York State Troopers. Utilizing his handheld GPS unit and the provided coordinates, Ranger Seeley and the Troopers were able to locate the hikers at 10 p.m., slightly off the trail. Ranger Seeley provided the hikers with food and water before they proceeded back down to the trailhead. The couple was back to their vehicle at 12:30 a.m.
Town of Bolton
Wilderness Rescue: On Oct. 3 at 7:53 p.m., Warren County 911 transferred a call to DEC’s Ray Brook Dispatch from a hiker stating that she and her eight-year-old daughter were stuck on the trail for Pole Hill Pond. The hiker stated that they did not have any light sources and that she had fallen, causing minor injuries. Forest Rangers Donegan and Kabrehl responded to the pair’s location along with Bolton Fire and EMS. Rangers proceeded up to the trail to locate the stranded family from Saratoga Springs and Ranger Donegan advised that he was with the pair at 10:48 p.m. After being assessed by Rangers, the mother and daughter were provided light sources and safely escorted back to the trailhead. At 10:58 p.m., the incident concluded and all emergency service providers were cleared the scene.
Town of Arietta
Wilderness Search: On Oct. 4 at 3:34 p.m., Hamilton County 911 transferred a call to DEC’s Ray Brook Dispatch reporting a missing 14-year-old hiker from Canajoharie who became separated from his parents on Good Luck Mountain, part of the Ferris Lake Wild Forest. Forest Rangers Kerr and Milano responded to the trailhead to look for the lost hiker. At 5:15 p.m., Ranger Kerr met the hiker a couple miles up an adjoining snowmobile trail. They proceeded back to the trailhead and the subject was reunited with his parents at 5:45 p.m.
Be sure to properly prepare and plan before entering the backcountry. Visit DEC’s Hike Smart NY and Adirondack Backcountry Information webpage for more information.