New York State Laws and Regulations

In general, state regulations add restrictions to federal laws. They cannot be less restrictive. Wildlife species that are not regulated by the federal government fall under state jurisdiction. Some problem species are unprotected and have no restrictions on their take. Typically, licenses are not required to hunt, fish, or trap unprotected species.

Environmental Conservation Law (ECL)

Regulatory agency: New York State Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC).
Read the law:
The sections that are most relevant to NWCOs are 11-0524, 11-0521, 11-0523, 11-0511, 11-0513, 11-0525, 11-0505, 11-0507, 11-0917, 11-1105, 11-0103, and 11-1101
License required: The NWCO license is required for certain activities (such as transporting wildlife) and to handle protected species.

Nuisance Wildlife Control Operator
(NWCO) License

To get a NWCO license, you must pass the NWCO exam, complete the application, and pay the license fee. The New York State NWCO license authorizes you to act as an agent for a property owner or lessee. You must have a signed contract or written permission from that person stating that you have been hired to act as their agent to take nuisance wildlife on their property. You are allowed to take, temporarily possess, and transport any wildlife, except for those species detailed below, when that animal damages public or private property, or under conditions detailed in a permit issued by the DEC.
NWCOs may take wildlife only by lawful means, and only in a lawful manner. NWCOs must exercise due care to safeguard the public from any animal they capture, possess, or move to another location.
Wildlife taken outside of New York State may not be brought into the state under this license.
If an animal appears to be diseased, it must be humanely killed and buried or cremated, or otherwise disposed of as directed by the DEC Regional Wildlife Manager or the local county health department.
NWCOs must follow the directives of their DEC permits and the local county health department concerning the handling and disposal of bats, raccoons, and skunks (rabies vector species), and any other directives about rabies.
While working as a NWCO, you are required to carry a copy of your license (showing all of the license conditions) with you, on your person. You must present this license upon request. You must keep track of all of your NWCO jobs each day, using the log supplied by the DEC. These records, and any animals in your possession, must be available for inspection by a DEC Environmental Conservation Officer at any reasonable time.
The NWCO license is good for one year. It expires on the date listed on the front of the license. The license is issued to you, not to a company, so it cannot be transferred.
You must successfully complete any training programs required by the DEC. For example, if you use firearms, you must pass the DEC hunter safety course. If you use any foothold trap or a body-gripping trap that has a jaw spread of 5″ or larger, you must pass the DEC trapper training course. Foothold and body-gripping traps must meet the requirements of ECL 11-1101 sub. 6.
All traps set for the taking of wildlife must be marked with the name and address of the NWCO or that person’s business. Traps must be checked each calendar day by the NWCO or the property owner or lessee who hired the NWCO. Animals must be removed from traps on the same calendar day when they were discovered in the trap, or within 12 hours of capture. After you’ve captured the nuisance animal, you can then: 1) release it to the wild; 2) humanely kill it, then bury or cremate it; or 3) if the animal is distressed or injured, transfer it to a licensed wildlife rehabilitator.

Which Species Can NWCOs Handle?

Table 1 has information on which species a NWCO can handle, and when. Check the DEC website for updates. In New York State, all wild animal species have legal classifications that are described in the Environmental Conservation Law. Their legal status determines several aspects of control efforts. Most commonly, the question is, can a NWCO “take” this species in this situation?
Legally, “take” applies to the pursuit, capture, or killing of wildlife. This covers shooting, trapping, netting, “and all lesser acts such as disturbing, harrying, or worrying.” It refers to any device commonly used to capture or kill that species. The taking must be by lawful means, and in a lawful manner. (See the definitions in ECL 11-0103 on page 3-28).

Endangered and Threatened Species

In New York State, you may not handle endangered or threatened species. That includes species that are endangered or threatened only within New York State, and those that are on the federal endangered and threatened species list. The only exception is endangered or threatened bats that are found in homes may be removed using non-lethal methods. These bats, if found in an occupied home, may be killed if necessary for rabies testing ordered by the health department.
Two lists you must keep track of are the federal list, and the New York State list. Contact the NYS DEC to learn of any updates to the lists. This is especially important when dealing with bats. A number of factors, such as white-nose syndrome, have caused bat populations to decline greatly. The result is that a number of bat species may be added to the state and/or federal endangered species list. The DEC keeps current lists of NYS endangered and threatened species and fact sheets about many of these species on its website at:

Domestic Animals

Domestic animals, such as dogs and cats, are not covered by the Environmental Conservation Law because they’re not wildlife species. They are regulated under NYS Agriculture and Markets regulations, Articles 26 and 7. Even if they’re feral and behave like wild animals, they still are considered domestic species. Although every town is legally required to have a dog control officer, the same isn’t true for cats. Some areas may have inadequate services and customers may turn to you for help with feral cats. Your NWCO license does not allow you to handle any domestic animals.

Rabies Vector Species

Special care is given to the handling of mammals most likely to be carrying rabies. Known as “rabies vector species,” in New York State the ones to watch are bats, raccoons, and skunks. Foxes and coyotes also may be rabid in some areas.
Before you respond to a call about these animals, call the local health authority. That’s either the county health department or the district office of the state health department. You are required by law to follow the health department’s directions concerning the disposal of raccoons, skunks, and bats, no matter what the landowner requests.

Special Jobs Require Special Permits

Federally Protected Wildlife

Federally protected wildlife, such as Canada geese, woodpeckers, gulls, hawks, and owls, require a landowner to obtain both a federal permit and a permit from DEC to destroy eggs, remove a nest, capture, or harm them in any way.
Try a combination of nonlethal control methods first. This may solve the problem and will save you the hassle of paperwork. Because you don’t need permits for most nonlethal control methods, you can probably deal with the situation right away, which may be appealing to your customer. Just remember that you can’t destroy eggs or disturb their young, or disturb a nest if there are eggs or young in it, because those actions are classified as “taking.”
One exception is Canada geese. If you only want to destroy goose nests or treat the eggs with corn oil (or puncturing) to prevent hatching, you only need to visit the USFWS’s Resident Canada Goose Nest and Egg Registration Site to register online. You do not need any special authorization or permit from the DEC. Go to:
You may be able to persuade the birds to leave by hazing them with dogs or frightening them with devices such as noisemakers and scarecrows. Otherwise, you could alter the conditions that make the site attractive to them, for example, by removing unnatural food sources such as garbage. Exclude them from the site by erecting fences. If that approach doesn’t work, call the DEC regional wildlife office to discuss the situation and seek the proper permits.

Game Species

Some game species, such as muskrats, beavers, white-tailed deer, turkeys, and black bears may become a nuisance on private property. What should you do if you’re asked to take care of a problem with one of these species? Tell the landowner to call the regional DEC wildlife office. If appropriate, the DEC will issue a special state permit—to the landowner, not to the NWCO—that will allow certain control efforts. You can be hired to do that work, but the landowner must speak directly to the DEC. (You can explain the process, but they still have to talk to the DEC).
NWCOs may take bears on residential land if they’ve first proven to the DEC that the animal is damaging the property or threatening public health or safety. If persuaded, the DEC may issue a special permit. If the bear is killing or worrying livestock or destroying an apiary on cultivated land, the landowner (or you, as that person’s agent) may take the bear at any time. The landowner is then required to contact the DEC promptly, and to deliver the carcass to the DEC officer for disposal.
If the landowner doesn’t want to get the state permit, you may use nonlethal control techniques. If the problem occurs during a legal season for that species, you could advise the landowners to invite hunters or trappers onto their land.

Unprotected Wildlife

All New York State residents can take a member of an unprotected species that’s on their own property when the wildlife becomes destructive to public or private property.
Nuisance animals of unprotected species may be taken at any time of the year and by any means provided that other laws are not violated (such as pesticide regulations, firearm discharge ordinances, or trespassing laws). Your NWCO license gives you the additional option of transporting and releasing animals, with the permission of the owner of the release site.
Species that are unprotected in NY include:  woodchucks, porcupines, eastern chipmunks, red squirrels, flying squirrels, moles, voles, shrews, some bats (check with the DEC first), rats (except the Allegheny woodrat), house sparrows, European starlings, and pigeons (without leg band).

Table 1. Species NWCOs Can Handle and When      Check the DEC web site for updates.

Animal Anytime It’s a nuisance It damaged
Other information
Bats (except Indiana, long-eared, eastern small-footed, little brown and tri-colored) Maybe Maybe Maybe Contact a DEC Wildlife Office when dealing with bats. Some bats are protected and others are being considered for protection and could be added to the protected list at any time. Many bats require experts to identify them.
Bats (Indiana, long-eared, eastern small-footed, little brown and tri-colored) No No No Protected bats found in homes may be removed using non-lethal methods. If found in an occupied home, these bats may be killed, with no additional permits, if necessary for health department ordered rabies testing.
Beaver No Permit A Permit A Permit A
Black Bear No Permit A Permit A If destroying livestock or apiary, no permit needed
Bobcat No Permit A Permit A
Cats (domestic or feral) No No No
Chipmunk Yes Yes Yes
Coyote No Permit A Yes Coyotes cannot be live trapped and released without with DEC permission.
Dogs (domestic or feral) No No No Contact local animal control or Ag & Markets
Deer (white-tailed) No Permit A Permit A Permit A
European hare No Permit A Yes
Eurasian boar (free roaming) No Permit A Permit A
Fisher No Permit A Permit A
Foxes (red and gray) No Permit A Yes
Marten (pine marten) No Permit A Permit A
Mice Yes Yes Yes
Mink No Permit A Permit A
Moles Yes Yes Yes
Muskrat No Permit A Yes
Opossum No Permit A Yes
Otter (river otter) No Permit A Permit A
Porcupine Yes Yes Yes
Rabbit (cottontail) No Permit A Yes
Raccoon No Permit A Yes
Rats (except Allegheny woodrat) Yes Yes Yes
Shrews Yes Yes Yes
Skunk (striped) No Yes Yes
Snowshoe (varying) hare No Permit A Yes
Squirrels (flying and red) Yes Yes Yes
Squirrels (gray, black, fox) No Permit A Yes
Voles Yes Yes Yes
Weasel No Permit A Yes
Woodchuck Yes Yes Yes
Permit A means: Unless specifically listed and allowed on your NWCO license, you would need an additional permit from the DEC, obtained by the landowner, to handle this species. “Permit B” means: Only with US FWS and DEC permits obtained by the landowner.

Table 1. Species NWCOs Can Handle and When         (continued)
Check the DEC web site for updates.

Animal Anytime It’s a nuisance It damaged property Other information
Snakes No Permit A Permit A Snakes cannot be trapped, killed, handled or relocated without a permit.
Turtles (except mud, bog, Blanding’s, and sea turtles. No Permit A Permit A Turtles cannot be trapped, killed, handled or relocated without a permit.
Canada goose No Permit B Permit B
Red-winged blackbird No No Special case >>>>>> Yes, when destroying crops from June-October
Cowbird No No Special case >>>>>> Yes, when destroying crops from June-October
Crow No Yes, if on cultivated fields Yes
Ducks No Permit B Permit B
English sparrow (house sparrow) Yes Yes Yes
Grackle No No Special case >>>>>> Yes, when destroying crops from June-October
Pigeon (not wearing leg bands) Yes Yes Yes
Pigeon (wearing leg band) No No No
Starling (European) Yes Yes Yes
Swan (mute) No Permit A Permit A
Turkey No Permit A Permit A
Migratory birds (such as song birds, hawks, owls, waterfowl, and woodpeckers) No Permit B Permit B
“Permit A” means: Unless specifically listed and allowed on your NWCO license, you would need an additional permit from the DEC, obtained by the landowner, to handle this species.
“Permit B” means: Only with US FWS and DEC permits obtained by the landowner.

Protecting the Public

As a NWCO, you are required to act in a reasonable way that will protect the public from attack by the animals you’re handling (under Article 26, section 370 of the NYS Agriculture and Markets Law). Here’s the actual text of that law, excerpted from the Agriculture and Market regulations, Article 26 (Cruelty to Animals):

  1. Protection of the public from attack by wild animals and reptiles.

Any person owning, possessing or harboring a wild animal or reptile capable of inflicting bodily harm upon a human being, who shall fail to exercise due care in safeguarding the public from attack by such wild animal or reptile, is guilty of a misdemeanor, punishable by imprisonment for not more than one year, or by a fine of not more than five hundred dollars, or by both. “Wild animal” within the meaning of this section, shall not include a dog or cat or other domestic animal. Previous attacks upon a human being by such wild animal or reptile, or knowledge of the vicious propensities of such wild animal or reptile, on the part of the possessor or harborer thereof, shall not be required to be proven by the people upon a prosecution hereunder; and neither the fact that such wild animal or reptile has not previously attacked a human being, nor lack of knowledge of the vicious propensities of such wild animal or reptile on the part of the owner, possessor or harborer thereof shall constitute a defense to a prosecution hereunder.”

Other Pertinent State Laws

State Pesticide Laws and Regulations

See Module 8 on Chemical Controls for more information on pesticide laws.
Regulatory agency: DEC
Applicable to: pesticide use (the handling, use, storage, transportation, sale, and disposal of pesticides)
License required: pesticide applicator license for the use of restricted use pesticides, or for the commercial application of pesticides. The commercial pesticide applicator license is broken down into 28 categories and subcategories, each requiring its own certification.
Read the laws and regulations:
Online suggested site—
The DEC site includes links to the many laws and regulations related to pesticides, such as the pesticide control regulations [6 NYCRR parts 320–329], the relevant parts of the ECL [Article 33, parts of Articles 15 and 71], the pesticide reporting law, neighbor notification law, and mosquito control laws.
Earlier, we discussed the aspects of FIFRA, the federal pesticide law, that are managed by the US EPA. Now we’ll discuss the DEC’s role.
New York State law adds a few new wrinkles to the use of pesticides. Remember that according to FIFRA, anyone in the nation who wants to apply a restricted use pesticide must be a certified applicator? Well, New York State regulations require that anyone who wants to apply ANY pesticide on someone else’s property must have commercial pesticide certification. That might mean you.
If you want to use pesticides in your NWCO business, you will need a state commercial pesticide applicator license. Some NWCOs seek this license if they expect to handle many rodent jobs, or want the option of applying repellents or fumigating burrows.
The DEC’s Bureau of Pesticide Management is in charge of this license. You’ll have to go through a separate training and take a different test. (Reinforce your bookcase, because another big manual is involved). There are continuing education requirements, too. Contact the DEC or the Pesticide Management Education Program at Cornell University for more information.
A few crucial points to keep in mind concerning FIFRA and the state pesticide regulations include:

  • In New York State, the minute you step onto someone else’s property, the laws for the commercial application of pesticides come into play.
  • UNLESS you also have a commercial pesticide certification (and a pesticide business registration) you cannot apply any pesticides on someone else’s property. No deer or snake repellents. No mothballs. No bird repellents. No toxic mouse bait. No product that has an EPA number on its label. Got it?
  • You can advise landowners about using repellents or other general use pesticides as part of their control strategy, but you cannot provide the service unless you also have a commercial pesticide certification. (They can use these products themselves.)
  • ALWAYS read and follow the pesticide label instructions. The label is the law. Any use not listed on the label is prohibited.

But what if you’re hired to exclude bats from an attic, and there’s a huge wasp’s nest under the eave so close to the bat’s entry hole that you’re afraid you’ll be stung while you’re up on the ladder installing the check-valve? If nesting stinging insects present an immediate danger while you’re trying to do your job, you may apply a general use pesticide such as a wasp or hornet spray for your personal protection. This is considered an “emergency non-routine application,” not a commercial pesticide application.
You can’t spray to protect your customers, even if they ask you to take care of it while you’re up there. The best advice is: don’t go out of your way looking for stinging insects for a customer; and if you do spray to protect yourself, don’t charge for it.

New York State Sanitary Code:

Regulatory agency: NYS Dept. of Health
Applicable to: all New Yorkers
License required: N/A
Read the law: online–
In print—Public Health Law Article 21 Title 4, sections 2140–2146 and Chapter 1, Title 10 Part 2, section 2.14
This law deals with the control of rabies, the reporting of potentially rabid animals and of human and animal exposures to a potentially rabid animal. It also specifies what happens to a potentially rabid animal (wild animals and domestic animals may be treated differently), and what happens to a domestic animal that was exposed to a known rabid animal. The law also calls for rabies vaccinations of cats under certain conditions.
The full text of the sanitary code is included at the end of this module. Here are the key points:

  • If you suspect an animal is rabid, you must report it to the local health authority immediately. “Rabies suspect” is defined in section 5 (e).
  • Bats and any animal other than a dog, cat, ferret, or domestic livestock suspected of being rabid shall be destroyed immediately and submitted for rabies testing, with the approval of the local health authority.
  • Health care providers must report all cases of human exposure to rabies to the local health authority immediately. “Exposure” is defined in (a) 2.
  • If a person has been potentially exposed to rabies by a dog, cat, ferret, or domestic livestock, the local health authority may have the animal confined for 10 days at the owner’s expense. With the owner’s approval, the health authority may have the animal destroyed immediately and submitted for rabies testing.
  • If the owner cannot be determined, the costs fall to the person who asked for the confinement. In this case, if confinement isn’t possible or desirable, the animal may be destroyed immediately and submitted for testing.
  • Should an animal develop signs of rabies during its isolation, it shall be destroyed and submitted for rabies testing.
  • Any mammal that’s been in direct contact with a known rabid animal shall either be destroyed or quarantined for six months. The costs are paid by the owner. If the animal was vaccinated before the exposure, it may be isolated under the owner’s control if it receives a booster shot within five days of exposure. Any animal under such restrictions shall not be moved from one health district to another during the quarantine period except with the permission of the health authorities in both districts.
  • Whenever rabies is confirmed in a county, all cats in that county who are over 3 months old must be vaccinated (this doesn’t apply to tourists staying less than 15 days, or to animals in shelters, hospitals, research facilities, or breeding facilities).

Agriculture and Markets Law Article 26, Cruelty to Animals Law

Regulatory agencies: Animal Industry Division of the NYS Department of Agriculture and Markets
Applicable to: cats and dogs and other domestic and farm animals
Read the law: online—
In print—
For a NWCO, the key sections are:
Part 374: Humane destruction or other disposition of animals lost, strayed, homeless, abandoned or improperly confined or kept
Part 360: Poisoning or attempting to poison animals
Part 353-a: Aggravated cruelty to animals
Part 366: Dog stealing
Part 356: Failure to provide proper food and drink to an impounded animal
Part 377: Disposal of dead animals (refers to large domestic animals)

Agriculture and Markets Regulations, Article 7, Licensing, Identification and Control of Dogs and Animal Population Control Program

Regulatory agencies: Animal Industry Division of the NYS Department of Agriculture and Markets
Applicable to: dogs and cats
Read the law:
Primarily, this is Article 7, sections 106–126; but there are many excerpts from other laws, so it’s easiest to download the circular.
For a NWCO, the key sections are:
Section 117: Seizure of dogs; redemption period; impoundment fees; adoption
Section 121: Dangerous dogs
Section 117-a: Animal population control program
Section 114: Dog control officers
Part 77, section 77.2: Standards for the care of seized dogs
Part 77, section 77.3: Euthanasia and disposal
Section 2140 (Public Health law, title IV, article 21): Rabies; prevention of the spread
Section 2142: Rabies; dogs at large; seizure and disposal; reports
Section 2145: Rabies; compulsory vaccination; violation; penalty

Firearm Ordinances

“Firearm” is defined in 6 NYCRR part 180.3A as “any gun or other instrument which by force of gunpowder or other explosive, or which by the force of a spring, air or other gas, expels a missile or projectile capable of killing, wounding or otherwise inflicting physical damage upon fish, wildlife or other animals.” This includes shotguns, rifles, pistols, muzzleloaders, air guns, and dart rifles. Under state law, bows (long bows and crossbows) are not considered firearms.
Unfortunately, it’s not that simple. There are also local firearm regulations, and they may differ from state law. Some local laws are more restrictive. Some define other devices, such as bows, as “firearms.” You must obey both state and local regulations. To learn more, check the International Hunter Education Association website at or consider attending the DEC’s hunter education course or a firearms safety course sponsored by the National Rifle Association (NRA).
Here are a few points on gun safety:

  • shotguns and rifles must be unloaded when carried in a motor vehicle
  • firearms can’t be discharged across a public highway or maintained right-of-way
  • rifles aren’t allowed in the field on Long Island or in Westchester County
  • legal discharge distance from a building for firearms is 500 feet, for bows it is 150 feet, and crossbows it is 250 feet (unless you have permission from the owner of the building).

The last point explains how far you must be from a building in order to shoot legally. You must be more than that distance from

  • a school, playground, or occupied factory or church
  • a home, or occupied or used farm building or structure (unless you own it, lease it, are an immediate member of the family, an employee, or have the owner’s consent).

How far is 500 feet? Most people are poor judges of distance. You may want to take a tape measure outdoors, measure 500 feet, and actually pace off the distance a few times. Unfortunately, you have to stretch your vision even more because you have to consider 500 feet in all directions. That’s 18 acres, or about as big as 16 football fields, just a bit smaller than the area covered by the White House.

Building Codes

Building codes are relevant if you offer repair or exclusion services, such as adding a cap to a chimney to keep raccoons out. These regulations vary across the state, and are updated regularly. Check codes in the area you will be working.