Image: Halls Lake Natural Area

A Michigan man rescued by off-duty DNR officers was lost for four hours after going into the woods to look for his dogs.

The off-duty DNR conservation officers helped rescue the 59-year-old man from Remus, late on March 12.

The man’s girlfriend told 911 dispatchers that her boyfriend had been missing for several hours after their dogs jumped out of their truck and he followed them into the woods. The woman said that her boyfriend was in the woods with no phone and that he has a heart condition and has had numerous strokes in the past. The woman was able to describe a green gate to dispatchers, which assisted them in locating her.

After the call, Isabella County Central Dispatch contacted Michigan’s DNR COs Mike Haas and Josh Russell.

Both Haas and Russell were off-duty and nearby when they got the call.

Familiar with the rural area, the officers knew that the green gate the woman described was on a natural area land owned by Chippewa Watershed Conservancy Group. The officers were concerned because of the man’s health complications along with the terrain.

“We knew the land described, there are numerous ice-covered beaver ponds and steep hills that could cause a lot of complications,” Haas said. “We told dispatchers it would be difficult for other agencies to navigate if they didn’t have the proper equipment.”

Having access to Haas’s search and rescue gear, the two COs drove an unmarked vehicle to the green gate's location. They found the man’s girlfriend near South Old State Road, located southeast of Halls Lake.

“We had completed a specialized tactical person-tracking course about a year ago,” Haas said. “We were able to use these skills to begin tracking the lost man into the woods.”

Haas and Russell quickly found the man’s footprints in patches of snow, leading them through hardwood hills and thickets.

“Due to sparse snow coverage, we had to look for crushed vegetation through thick marsh areas. The man’s trail zig-zagged numerous times, going through various congested and steep areas,” Haas said. “His footprints were becoming closer together, which may indicate he was becoming tired. All of these are common behavioral signs of a lost person.”

The COs traveled about 2 miles through the woods, maintaining continuous radio communication with MSP troopers and dispatchers, informing them that their tracking was leading them toward a rural road on the north side of Halls Lake. State Police troopers drove toward that road and found the man wandering west on West Broomfield Road, near Costabella Ave.

The COs arrived at the scene about five minutes after the man had come out of the woods. By the time he was found, the man had been missing for four hours.

“We were pleased at the outcome of this search. Communicating with the other agencies, utilizing our search and rescue training and being familiar with the area allowed for a timely conclusion to the search,” Haas said.

Medics evaluated the man on-scene. He was cold, but in good condition and did not require further medical treatment.

“I’m proud that COs Haas and Russell were able to use their specialized search and rescue training to quickly find this missing man,” said Chief Gary Hagler, DNR Law Enforcement Division. “This situation could have been much worse if the officers were not nearby and prepared to respond.”

Copyright 2019 WNEM (Meredith Corporation). All rights reserved.

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