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The Russian Hare

Missing Persons Cases on US Public Lands

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Just want to pass on this article from an outdoors site about the now well-known missing persons cases in US national parks, for any here who may have interest.

The quasi-famous or infamous DAvid Paulides ("Missing 411") makes an appearance in the article, though he is not the centerpiece.

https://www.outsideonline.com/2164446/leave-no-trace

Quote

Joe Keller had just joined the foggy stratum of the hundreds or maybe thousands of people who’ve gone missing on our federal public lands. Thing is, nobody knows how many. The National Institute of Justice, the research arm of the Department of Justice, calls unidentified remains and missing persons “the nation’s silent mass disaster,” estimating that on any given day there are between 80,000 and 90,000 people ac­tively listed with law enforcement as missing. The majority of those, of course, disappear in populated areas. 

What I wanted to know was how many people are missing in our wild places, the roughly 640 million acres of federal lands—including national parks, national forests, and Bureau of Land Management prop­erty. Cases like 51-year-old Dale Stehling, who, in 2013, vanished from a short petroglyph-viewing trail near the gift shop at Colorado’s Mesa Verde National Park. Morgan Heimer, a 22-year-old rafting guide, who was wearing a professional-grade personal flotation device when he disappeared in 2015 in Grand Canyon National Park during a hike after setting up camp. Ohioan Kris Fowler, who vanished from the Pa­cific Crest Trail last fall. At least two people have recently gone missing outside the national forest where I live in the Upper Peninsula of Michigan. There are scores more stories like this

 

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Posted (edited)

I'm posting in here a little late, but I had to comment.

I've read all the 411 books and while there are definitely patterns to the cases, some of them, to me, don't seem so strange. The lack of detail on the dogs that were used in searching, though, is one thing that bothers me. I do know about SAR work with dogs because I trained with my dog to do SAR work.

Over and over in the documented cases, Paulides writes that "the dogs lost the scent". This makes me question what kind of dogs they're using.

Some dogs are trained to literally track the person's trail and their nose never lifts off the trail. In reality, all scent can travel off the track and in some circumstances, it can travel a lot off the track. All of the SAR work I've seen done with dogs is done in the following way: The area to be searched is sectioned off and each dog team gets a section. The dogs are sent out to grid the section. Basically, they're air scenting. It's up to the handler to know the wind direction and terrain as much as possible and have the dog set to be able to get a scent from every part of the section they're covering.

I did a practice search once with my brother hiding in a field. With the wind blowing away from my brother, my dog crossed several yards behind him and didn't detect him. I restarted my dog clear on the other side of the area and as soon as he crossed the wind currents blowing in from brother, he instantly turned and went straight towards my brother, despite being much further away than he had been the first time.

Knowing how scent drifts, as well as what the conditions are and how they will affect the scent, and which way the wind is blowing, or even if it is, are all things that have to be taken into consideration when searching with a dog.

When I read that many of Paulides' accounts said the "dogs lost the scent", I can only assume they were using tracking or trailing dogs, which can and do lose a trail. Why air scenting search dogs weren't used, I don't know. Even after rain washes away a track, by air scenting and using a grid like search patterns, it's much easier and faster to find someone.

So because of this, and because of so many older cases that can't be verified like they should be, I am really a little dubious about all the missing cases. There are a bunch of cases that are mysterious, of course, but not as many as I think Mr. Paulides makes out to be. You could make a case for cities being the center of disappearances as well. There are equally as many people who disappear in cities around the US and are never found.

Edited by rodentraiser
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Just now, rodentraiser said:

Knowing how scent drifts, as well as what the conditions are and how they will affect the scent, and which way the wind is blowing, or even if it is, are all things that have to be taken into consideration when searching with a dog.

When I read that many of Paulides' accounts said the "dogs lost the scent", I can only assume they were using tracking or trailing dogs, which can and do lose a trail. Why air scenting search dogs weren't used, I don't know. Even after rain washes away a track, by air scenting and using a grid like search patterns, it's much easier and faster to find someone.

Thats an interesting take on the tracking dog aspect of Missing411. 

Considering that one of the other cornerstones of many of the stories Paulides uses is rapidly declining weather your explanation of the dog thing would seem to fit. 

I havent read the books (im poor LOL) but have digested as many of the case studies as I could find online and found many to be very compelling. The ones which I kind of dismissed involved children small enough for a bird to carry off. I read a couple of the stories wondering why that wasnt posited as an explanation. 

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Posted (edited)

LOL, that's the first thing I thought of, too. I mean, children found high up on ridges and mountains, no tracks, scent vanishes, incredible distances covered by these kids...yeah, the large bird thing seems to fit.

One thing that is also interesting is one of the cases of Tom Brown, the tracker. If you haven't read his biography, you're missing something good.

Anyways, towards the end of his first book, Tom Brown writes about a case of a missing child. He tracked the child until he found the tracks of a mountain lion that then merged with the child's tracks. It's interesting to note that the child's body wasn't found, although if I remember correctly, they found his shoes and a few other things. I think it can be assumed that a wile animal like a bear or a mountain lion can take a small child and literally eat him up.

By the way, shoes are notoriously easy to lose. Don't believe me? Untie your shoe next time you go shopping and walk around for a while with the laces flapping. Then consider what it's like walking over rough terrain with your shoes untied.

I almost forgot. Do you live near a library? My library will do searches through other libraries to find books for me they don't carry. If the book can't be found locally, they'll do a nationwide search for it (although I'm limited to 3 searches a week). That's how I read all the Paulides books and the Tom Brown books, too. You should check it out. I can send in my search requests online, too.

Edited by rodentraiser

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