“We do have hope that he’s alive,” said Park County Search and Rescue Coordinator Mart Knapp on Monday. “If I said his chances were good, it wouldn’t be right,” Knapp qualified, but he noted people have lived for weeks through worse …
Searchers continued to look for a missing hiker in the Clarks Fork Canyon area on Monday as a week of searching has turned up no clear sign of where he is.
Jason Shefelbine, 32, of Billings, has been missing since Saturday, Oct. 1, when he went on a day hike in the area.
“We do have hope that he’s alive,” said Park County Search and Rescue Coordinator Mart Knapp on Monday. “If I said his chances were good, it wouldn’t be right,” Knapp qualified, but he noted people have lived for weeks through worse conditions.
“We are still treating it as a search and not a recovery, but his (Shefelbine’s) chances are getting slimmer every day,” Knapp said.
Shefelbine’s girlfriend reported him missing on Monday, Oct. 3, after he failed to show up for work or return home.
He was last seen around 2 p.m. on Oct. 2, northwest of Antelope Butte between the Chief Joseph Highway (Wyo. 296) and the Clark’s Fork River, said a Thursday news release from Park County Sheriff Scott Steward. Shefelbine was seen carrying a fishing pole and wearing shorts, a T-shirt and a black day pack.
A sheriff’s deputy found Shefelbine’s vehicle off the Chief Joseph Highway on the evening of Tuesday, Oct. 4, but a search of the area that night and every day since — by Park County Search and Rescue members, search dogs, aircraft and untrained volunteers — has so far failed to locate the man.
After a week of searching, people are getting tired, Knapp said. About a quarter of the search area is vertical with 1,000 foot drops, and that’s required search and rescue members to hang out over cliffs and in some cases go all the way down to the river to try to find Shefelbine.
Searchers did encounter a bear on Friday in the search area, but the group gathered together and the bear left, Knapp said.
Knapp said the help provided by untrained folks from the area as well as places like Billings and Casper has been appreciated by the search and rescue responders — who are themselves volunteers.
Around 10 people were searching the area on Monday.
Each day, Knapp said search and rescue leaders evaluate what they’ve done and what areas still need to be searched.
“You’re never going to get 100 percent probability of detection, but once we can reach 80-plus percent in each of our search divisions, it’s kind of like, what do you do next?” Knapp said.
He said the search dogs have picked up some scents coming out of the Clark’s Fork Canyon and searchers are trying to pin down where they’re coming from.