Wilderness deaths

Andrew Warburton - Disturbing disappearances and deaths in Canadian wilderness

Andy Warburton, disappeared July 1st, 1986, Tucker Lake, Beaver Bank, Nova Scotia, Canada

Andrew Warburton disappearance nova scotia

Parents Doreen and Tom Warburton from Hamilton, Ontario in Canada took their two sons Gary and Andy to see relatives in Beaver Bank, near Dartmouth in Nova Scotia in July 1986.

They were staying with Aunt Helen and the Bulger family on Tucker Lake road. On July 1st, 1986, Andy (9) and Gary decided to go swimming with the twins at the Carr residence on the same road at the nearby Tucker Lake. Violet Carr the twins mother told the children at 3.40pm that they could go swimming for 20 minutes. Three of the four children headed off towards the lake but Andy was delayed for some reason and the others left without him. They were wearing their swimming outfits.

Warburton disappearance family pic
Doreen Warburton

Doreen Warburton

Tom Warburton

Tom Warburton

Just behind the Carr house is a pathway to Tucker Lake through woodland with a fork, the right heading towards the lake and the left fork moving deeper into the woods. Violet saw Andy at around 4 pm on her back step but after that, he vanished. Never to be seen alive again.

Helen and Doreen started dinner and noticed that Andy was nowhere to be seen and the other children did not know where he had gone as they had not seen him at the lake.

Tucker lake Nova Scotia

The family checked with neighbours, the path and lakeside then called  the RCMP and officers arrived at 5.45pm. The RCMP saw a young boy called Hobb Mcdonald who had just come back from summer camp that day and said he seen Andy earlier that day by a stream called Beaver Bank River. He had apparently taken his tennis sneakers off, crossed the water and then put them back on. But Andy's mother was surprised at this story as apparently he was scared of the river because he had got covered in leaches the last time he went in it. Andy was never far away from the twins but the RCMP never questioned them for some reason.

At 6.30pm tracking dogs went in to the woods, went across the river and circled back. They were never taken in the area of Tucker Lake. Waverley search and rescue arrived with around 100 searchers in the wood, most of them across the Beaver Bank River. 

Andy Warburton searchers

The Canadian Emergency measures organisation (EMO) coordinated the search, directed by Bernie Marshall, only his second search in the role and he had no formal training.

During mid-afternoon on day 2, July 2nd, it started raining and the temperature dropped to 53 degrees F (12℃).

On day 3 searchers were looking in ever-widening circles. There were three separate accounts that Andy was seen or heard north of Hamilton Lake, on the Chesapeake road and directly west of Tucker Lake, focused the attention of rescue teams. Searchers reported seeing a boy running away from them and being "Spooked". But these reports were possibly false and the calling of porcupines could be mistaken for a boy screaming or a fawn running through undergrowth, which were common in the area. Still no luck in locating Andy with time running out because of the cold and wet conditions.

By day 5, fourteen organised search and rescue teams were deployed but were not co-ordinated and were using different maps and radios. Hundreds of volunteers turned up to help, but were often left waiting for instructions. On Day 7 the military were finally dispatched in the area and Andy's sneakers were located.

On Day 8, after 165 hours of search operations, Andy's body was found north of Square Lake in Rasley Meadow, a 3 mile (4km) walk from the area of Tucker Lake at around 5.30pm. The body was in an alder thicket in a gully of marshy ground and outside the primary search area in a curled up foetal position. He had bad scratches on his legs. The coroner reported he probably died on day 4 or 5 based on the autopsy. results The searchers had never thought to look in Rasley Meadows as he had wandered further than they expected.

Tucker lake to Rasley Meadow

Expert trackers say the average person leaves behind two thousand clues for every mile travelled, from broken twigs, to footprints to twisted blades of grass. A team of well-trained searchers spaced ten feet apart can usually pick up ninety-five percent of these clues. But they found nothing.

Professor Ken Hill, a child psychologist from St. Mary's University in Halifax was asked by the RCMP to help in the search by giving information as to how a child would behave when lost. After Andy was found dead he was determined to do more research into disappearances and used the data of William Syrotuck, a researcher in the United States and conducted interviews with survivors to ascertain the psychology of those who get lost. 

He found that many children between seven and twelve years are "Stranger Resistant" and won't respond to rescuers and will tend to run, usually covering between 0.92 and 1.7 miles. They are often afraid of punishment and won't answer searchers until they are cold and hungry.

The search for Andy Warburton was criticised for being chaotic and unplanned. Stranger Resistance may have been a factor but also the primary search area was wrong because of reports of sightings near Hamilton Lake. What exactly happened near Tucker Lake and why Andy ended up in Rasley Meadows is the mystery, a distance of 3 miles which is further than most children of his age would travel when lost. Why did the other children take so long in noticing that Andy was not with them swimming in Tucker Lake, particularly his brother Gary? Despite thousands of searchers and hundreds of hours, the effort failed to locate Andy in time,. What kept Andy hidden for so long? A sad and disturbing tale which led to further valuable research in missing persons by Hill and Syrotuck which helped subsequent search and rescue operations.


Documentary 8 days in July https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=q1xyP2CopHY

The Survivors Club: The secrets and science that could save your lifeBy Ben Sherwood


Anna Schmidt - Disturbing deaths in U.S. wilderness

Anna "Annie" Schmidt, Munra Point, Bonneville Dam, Oregon

Annie Schmidt Bonneville dam

Sometimes things just go wrong when venturing into the outdoors. Search and rescue teams try their best, but often need to give up within a few days, because of weather or resources. It can be up to amateur volunteers to help track down these missing people or bring the bodies home for grieving relatives. Like the story of the discovery in 2009 of the remains of the German Tourists in Death Valley by Tom Mahood after days of searching in the desert. They originally went missing in 1996.

Here is another amazing another story of a lady called Lydia McGranahan who wouldn't give up searching for a fellow hiker in Oregon despite the slim chances of success. The disappearance and death of Anna Schmidt came up on the radar after researching the story of Alissa McCrann who disappeared in the nearby Multnomah falls area in December 2015.

Anna Schmidt, known as Annie, went for a hike near the Bonneville Dam in the Columbia River Gorge in Oregon.

The 21-year-old moved from  Salt Lake City in Utah to Portland in July 2016 and her father, Jon Schmidt, was a pianist and songwriter in the four-member music group, The Piano Guys, who after gaining a big following through YouTube, signed with Sony Music.

Annie, 5'4" and weighing 125 pounds, was described by friends and family as an avid hiker, a musically gifted young woman. 

She was last seen on Sunday, October 16th, 2016 by her room mate, Anne Snyder, and she sent a Snapchat message to her father that she planned to go for a hike at the Tooth Rock trailhead. Annie’s family noticed that she didn't post on social media at all on Monday which they found to be unusual as she usually posts daily, and grew increasingly worried the next day when she did not reply to any of their calls, texts or messages and had not been active on social media. Annie’s mother, Michelle, tried to text her with no response. On October 19th she flew into Portland to go on a pre-planned camping trip with Annie, but her daughter failed to pick her up at the airport as they had agreed. Michelle rented a car and went to Annie’s apartment where she found Annie’s roommate, who said she thought she had already left to go camping because she had not seen Annie since October 16th. At that point, they both realized something was badly wrong.

Annie was reported missing on Wednesday, October 19th, by her mother and her car was found on Thursday, October 20th,  off exit 40 on I-84 EB near the Bonneville Dam. The car had been broken into and ransacked, but her cellphone was found inside.  According to her mother, the phone, was old and the battery died quickly. Some sleeping bags were found in the vehicle but nothing else which gave a clue.

Annie’s roommate, Anne Snyder, spoke of the  the very last conversation she had with her "She didn't say anything. She wasn't like ‘I'm going hiking today.' She didn't say anything like that. She just said, ‘Do you want to hang out?' I said I couldn't,". Snyder also said that Annie did not have her gear or tent and that the tent she had ordered “had not shipped yet”. She said it was not unusual for her to go hiking alone, but she didn't bring any gear this time. "She didn't bring anything -- her tennis shoes are at home, her beanies, her backpack that she calls her adventure backpack -- she didn't take it. It's weird".

Annie Schmidt's last Twitter post

Annie Schmidt's last Twitter post

The search for Annie Schmidt

ToothRock Trail Head Oregon

Annie's last cellphone ping came from the Tooth Rock trailhead area, which is where searchers began with more than 150 volunteers on October 21st, 2016, five days after she was last seen. Tooth Rock is located between the more popular Eagle Creek trail to the east and Waclella Falls to the west. A maze of trails originate in the vicinity taking hikers to waterfalls, lakes and stunning vistas of the gorge. There are multiple routes just from the Tooth Rock parking lot and searchers had fanned out on all the different trails, unsure of which one Annie took.

On the second day of searching, nearly 200 volunteers and 50 search and rescue crews were deployed, followed by the use of a fixed-wing plane and drones. By October 23rd, search and rescue crews covered 150 miles of the Columbia Gorge trail system with the assistance of dog teams and that evening the search for Annie was suspended with no evidence found. Crews from the Clatsop County Sheriff's Office and Portland Mountain Rescue with ropes and other climbing equipment had searched the cliffs and waterfalls.

Annie's family continued the search on their own over the following few days. She was a member of the Church of Jesus Christ Latter Day Saints in Lake Oswego and the church has been leading the volunteer search efforts. "We just walked up the creeks. We're going chest deep. Wading, walking, looking to see if she's fallen in the creek, trapped under a rock or wedged behind a log,"

Police said they didn't suspect foul play but they were concerned she may have gotten lost or injured while hiking in the Gorge. 

Michelle and Jon Schmidt

Michelle and Jon Schmidt

Michelle Schmidt quickly said "I don't think she's still alive. I don't think she's survived. Honestly, that brings me comfort knowing she is with her Heavenly Father, that she's not hurting, that she's not suffering. But we do want to find her body.". What made Michelle so confident that Annie was dead on October 23rd is unclear, but the weather conditions around the time of her disappearance were poor with rain and high winds. In fact, very bad hiking weather which makes it strange that Annie decided to go walking that particular day. 

Annie Schmidt

Lydia McGranahan and the last search for Annie Schmidt

Lydia McGranahan, 40, lives in the small town of Keizer, Oregon, just north of Salem. Like so many others, McGranahan saw the news of a missing hiker.

On October 23rd,  Lydia joined the massive volunteer effort to search for Annie, saying, “It happens to be about an hour and a half from where I live. I’m an avid hiker and know the area quite well.”

When the rest of the group left that day “I didn’t want to go home, it wasn’t dark yet,” she said. “So I thought, ‘I’m going to stand where Annie’s car was, and try to think like her.’ ”

So Lydia just began hiking, all the while trying to imagine where Annie might have gone. “I started walking down one trail, and then onto another trail,” she said.

McGranahan ended at the unmaintained Munra Point, which OregonHikers.org describes as “an exposed basalt knob at the junction of three spiny ridges … (offering) a spectacular and exposed 360-degree view up and down the Columbia River Gorge.” The website says it is “safest in dry weather.” It had rained heavily the morning Annie had gone hiking.

When Lydia got to Munra Point, she says, “It seemed like the place Annie would want to go; I felt like we should search there.”That night, she had an intense dream. She felt herself falling, and as she fell, she saw Annie's face — as if she were somehow inside her. “I felt strongly, when I woke up from that, that Annie had fallen. And that she was at Munra Point.”

Munra Point Trail Columbia River gorge oregon

Lydia would spend seven full days searching for Annie and on October 26, she’d originally planned on going to McKenzie River to hike on her 40th birthday. “That’s what I set out to do, but then the night before, I found out the family was spending one more day searching for Annie and I thought, I can’t do my own thing, not as long as she is missing.”

That day, at the staging area, Lydia told the search team about her dream and shared a few other clues that led her to believe Annie was near Munra Point. But the group had already searched that area, and had made plans for searching elsewhere. She decided to go along with the group.

But midway through that search, one of the men in the group told Lydia “She’s not here." So he, Lydia and one other man decided to leave the others  and search at Munra Point. They looked at potential areas where Annie could have fallen.

Lydia said “After that, I felt such a strong pull, I’d come home, I couldn’t sleep. People were posting ‘It’s like finding a needle in a haystack,’ and I’m, like, ‘No it’s not.’ It’s not. I had this serious drive and intuition to find her.”

The Schmidt family brought in eight search and rescue dog teams, led by Eden resident Joe Jennings, president of Great Basin K9 Search & Rescue. The plan was to search several high-probability areas, but when Lydia was assigned to help in an area away from Munra Point, she asked to be moved “They’d asked me to go to a different place and I was, like, ‘No, I want to go to Munra.’ and she was teamed with Jennings and his 9 year old golden retriever, Gunny, to search the area below the point. “There was one large area I felt strongly about, knowing Annie liked to take shortcuts,” she said. “Joe was assigned that part, so I led him up there.”

The going was slow with steep, thick vegetation, a lot of bushwhacking, difficult terrain to walk on once you get off-trail.  Then at last,  “Joe’s dog popped up his head. I saw it immediately in Gunny, the attitude, nose up, whole body changed, faced uphill. I knew we were onto something.”

They worked their way up under the cliff, then Gunny seemed to lose the scent.“The wind was swirling; Joe said Gunny was trying to figure it out,” Eventually, unable to pinpoint the scent, the team needed to head back down to the trailhead. “Joe’s dog sat at the cliff edge, head up, barking,” McGranahan recalls. “Gunny was frustrated. He did not want to go, he knew Annie was close.”

Lydia led a second team up that afternoon, but again, they were unsuccessful. The next morning, McGranahan headed back to the same area with Wyoming-based Liz Hall and her dog, Reu.

Lydia McGranahan, Liz Hall, Reu the dog

Lydia McGranahan, Liz Hall, Reu the dog

Reu led Liz and Lydia to a place not far from where fellow dog Gunny had taken them. It was there they found the remains of a body and some belongings and clothing which belonged to Annie at around 11am. She was at the bottom of a very steep cliff around 300 feet high.

Joe Jennings said when they abandoned the search the day before the body was found, they’d assumed she’d landed on one of the many ledges and overhangs on the cliffs above. “If we’d just gone around the corner, we would have run into her,” he said.

 The following day, Annie’s father, Jon Schmidt, posted in the group Find Annie Schmidt to say a medical examiner had informed them they have positively identified the human remains found as being Annie. Officials believed Annie had accidentally slipped and fell from the cliffs above and died on impact.

“Fall was happening,” McGranahan said.“When Annie went missing, the leaves were still on the trees. By the time we found her, all the leaves were off the trees. The trails, the evidence on the ground, even some of Annie’s stuff, they were covered with leaves.” This highlights the need for trained search dogs like Gunny and Reu, according to Jennings. “A lot of the human searchers didn’t, or couldn’t, get off the trails, he said. “In that terrain, you could walk a few feet from her and never know she was there.”

Due to work of Lydia, Liz and Reu the mystery of Annie's whereabouts was solved. But why on earth was Annie hiking alone on Munra Point in mid-October with rain, dangerous cliffs and wind? Was it just coincidence that her car was ransacked and that she had left the cellphone behind (though it wasn't taken by the vandals)? Perhaps the battery on the phone had just given out on her. Its unclear whether she was under the influence of drugs or alcohol or whether she had suicidal thoughts. 











Geraldine Largay - Disturbing deaths in the U.S. wilderness

Geraldine Largay, Disappeared July 23, 2013, Body Found October 2015, Redington township, Appalachian Trail, Maine

Geraldine Largay death appalachian trail

Geraldine (Gerry) Largay, aged 68, was a retired air force nurse who had hiked long trails near her home in Tennessee. Like many other avid hikers, she decided to tackle the Appalachian Trail in Maine on a thru hike during the summer of 2013 over the course of six months. Initially, she hiked with a friend called Jane Lee but later continued alone.

Geraldine and George Largay

On July 23, 2013 she became lost after leaving the trail to relieve herself and was apparently unable to find her way back. Like Jessie Hoover who vanished in 1983, she was in the area of the 100 mile wilderness, a rugged, difficult to hike area where it is easy to get lost. She was last seen by fellow hikers on July 22nd at the Poplar Ridge lean-to. 

Last photo Gerladine Largay poplar ridge lean to

Last photo Gerladine Largay poplar ridge lean to

Gerry had been walking the length of the famous 2,200 miles (3,500 km) long Appalachian Trail from Springer Mountain in Georgia and Mount Katahdin in Maine. She had been in constant contact with her husband George until she became lost for small reunions and resupplies. George was not far away on the morning she went missing as he had driven to the Route 27 Crossing, about a 22-mile hike away from the shelter where his wife was last seen. At this point she had already walked more than 1,000 miles. Her trail name was “Inchworm”.

100 mile wilderness

She tried to text her husband after she became lost. At about 11am she wrote: “In somm trouble. Got off trail to go to br. Now lost. Can u call AMC to c if a trail maintainer can help me. Somewhere north of woods road. XOX.” Unfortunately, the text was never sent because of poor cell service in the area. Geraldine tried to find higher ground and attempted to send the text 10 more times in the next hour and a half. She eventually decided to camp for the night. The next day she tried to text again, with an undelivered message at 4.18pm: “Lost since yesterday. Off trail 3 or 4 miles. Call police for what to do pls. XOX.” She appears to have lost her GPS tracker which she purchased, leaving it in a hotel room or lean-to.

Geraldine largay Appalachian trail

The following day, George became very concerned and the official search effort started by the warden service including search aircraft, state police, national park rangers and fire departments. Bad weather hit the area at the time with heavy rain which didn't help tracking efforts. They searched side trails, interviewed hikers and used canine teams.

But there was no sign of Geraldine. The wilderness had swallowed her up.

Her initial trail companion, Jane Lee, who had hiked much of the trail with Largay before a personal emergency called her away, told wardens that her friend found navigation difficult with a map and compass and sometimes struggled to keep up.

In October 2015, Geraldine's body was eventually found near the Redington Township, close to the Redington Stream, and it became apparent she had survived nearly a month in the wilderness before succumbing to the elements and lack of food. She waited in vain for a rescue team that never came. However, at least three K9 teams came to about 100 yards of the camp but failed to detect her.

The discovery of her camp was caught on camera by a crew filming Animal Planet reality series North Woods Law, The body was found on a land owned by the U.S. Navy in Redington, three miles away from where she was last seen. The Navy uses the area for its Survival, Evasion, Resistance and Escape program and it is inaccessible and very remote.

Geraldine largay location of body

 What was amazing was that the remains were so close to civilization. Walking south from the campsite, the dense forest became open woods with good visibility after 60-70 yards, and after another 25 minutes there was a clear logging road that led to lodging.

When wardens arrived at the scene they saw a flattened tent, with a green backpack outside of it and a human skull with a sleeping bag around it. 

Geraldine largay location of body

The campsite was difficult to see unless you were right next to it as it was in dense woodland and as the tent was under several large trees whose branches obstructed the sky. Gerry had built a bedding area out of small trees and pine needles to keep her tent out of any water, and had tied a space blanket between branches to provide some cover.

geraldine largay tent found

Largay had also tried to set fires as nearby trees had been charred black.

In the camp, they found maps, a rain jacket, a space blanket, string, Ziploc bags, a flashlight that still worked, a blue baseball cap, dental floss, a homemade necklace with a white stone wrapped in string.

A journal found alongside her body reveals she survived until at least August 18th. It was titled  “George Please Read XOXO”. In it, Gerry explained that she had spent about two days wandering after a wrong turn across a stream and that she had tried to find ridges where she could find her bearings.

The Journal also contained a final request, dated August 6:"When you find my body, please call my husband George and my daughter Kerry. It will be the greatest kindness for them to know that I am dead and where you found me - no matter how many years from now. Please find it in your heart to mail the contents of this bag to one of them." 

Wardens believe Largay went to higher ground in an attempt to get a better cellular signal before making camp on a raised knoll. After a month at camp, she finally died from lack of food and exposure.  

Because her remains were inside the tent it seems the sniffer dogs and cadaver dogs were unable to pick up on her scent despite being so close to her camp on several occasions. But since searchers in such proximity to Gerry's camp, it was a mystery that she failed to hear their activity and call for help. Perhaps by then she was too exhausted caused by hunger.

Why Geraldine failed to find the nearby logging road and was undetected by the many search teams is a little strange. The area in which she was located was a U.S. navy training facility and this adds to the mystery.

Why did Gerry get so lost so quickly The Appalachian Trail Conservancy, tasked with maintaining the trails, reroutes several paths every year after flooding events or as part of ecological restoration projects. When they cut a new path there will be a junction where you are on the new trail instead of the old. They try to block it off with tree limbs, and remove the old blazing by scratching it off the trees but sometimes old blazes are still there but faded which can cause confusion.

A very sad story indeed and one that underscores the dangers of solo hiking on the Appalachian Trail and the 100 mile wilderness area around Maine.

Jake Dutton - Strange disappearances from the U.S. wilderness

James Jacob Dutton (Jake Dutton), disappeared June 15, 2012, Body found August 24, 2016, French Pete Trail, south of Cougar Lake, Three Sisters Wilderness, Oregon.

jake dutton french pete trail death

Update: Dutton’s skeleton was found August 24, 2016, by a hiker about 100 feet off the French Pete Trail in the Three Sisters Wilderness, about 4 miles from the trailhead. The discovery was made over four years after he disappeared. He was found near his backpack and two cans of bear spray in the steep, heavily forested area. His pants were still on, but his torso was bare. With no evidence of trauma or gunshot wounds, authorities suspect Dutton died of hypothermia. RIP Jake.

Hypothermia in June? Does this discovery raise more questions than answers? Paradoxical undressing caused by freezing temperature and hypothermia in the winter or spring but during the summer months even in Oregon? The French Pete Creek close to the trail is only at 4823 ft and the trail itself climbs around 1000 feet during its length. The average temperature in the Three Sisters Wilderness is a high of 21 degrees centigrade (70 degrees F) and low of 5 degrees centigrade (41 degrees F) in June. Link 

jake dutton french pete trail death

James Jacob Dutton (Jake Dutton), aged 32, lived in Eugene, Oregon, and was a veteran of the U.S. Coast Guard and had completed studying alternative medical services for pain relief through physical therapy. He was an experienced hiker and camper.

Jake left for a hike on the French Pete Trail in the Three Sisters Wilderness in Oregon June 15th, 2012. The French Pete Trail and drainage are surrounded by massive Douglas-Firs and Western Red-cedars. There are numerous rocks, steep slopes and the terrain is generally rugged and dangerous. He was eventually reported missing, but a search didn't begin for nearly 6 weeks as he failed to leave any sort of itinerary with friends or relatives. The fact that he wasn't working and was single also delayed the missing persons reports.

Jake Dutton Disappearance June 2012
French pete trail map Oregon

He was last seen at this apartment on June 3rd, 2012. On Friday, June 15, Jake completed a U.S. Forest Service permit slip to use the trail, which indicated when he started and when he planned to end his hike.  He indicated would return by June 18th.

French Pete Trail, Three sisters wilderness, Oregon

His 1998, Blue, Nissan Frontier pickup truck was found on July 30, 2012 near McKenzie Pass on forest road 19 near the trailhead for French Pete, off Aufderheide Memorial Drive. Jake's backpack, inflatable boat and hiking boots were not in the truck and found in his apartment. 

French Pete Creek Trail, three sisters wilderness, oregon

The family were frustrated that Forest Service officials didn’t use the permit to figure out that he had not returned from his hike and that his pickup was still at the trailhead. He had planned to take his 13-year-old nephew, CJ, camping later in June, after a family reunion in Seaside and it is believed that he went to the trail to scout campsites.

Jake had his cell phone with him, but there was no coverage in the French Pete area of the forest.

His mother, Cynthia Boucher, began to worry about her son in mid-June, when she called to remind him about his older brother Christopher’s upcoming birthday, and she could not reach him on his cell phone. On June 28, Jake had agreed to pick up his nephew at the Portland International Airport but failed to do so. Jake's brother subsequently went to the apartment and found no sign of him and informed the authorities and on July 9th a missing persons report was filed with the Eugene Police Department. Three weeks later, the report, which contained the description and license plate number of the pick up, caused the U.S. Forest Service to find the vehicle on July 30 at the French Pete trailhead.

Two searches, involving law enforcement personnel, volunteers and search and rescue dogs, took place on July 31 and August 5th. No signs of Jake were found on these searches.

Daming Xu disappearance

Like Jake Dutton, Daming Xu, disappeared in the same area on November 4th, 2007, after summiting the nearby Mount Ollalie. His guidebook was found near the French Pete Creek, but his body or belongings were never recovered.

It is never recommended to go hiking in the wilderness alone, and certainly not in the French Pete Trail area of Oregon without leaving a detailed itinerary behind with friends or family.





Bart Schleyer - Strange and unexplained disappearances from the Canadian Wilderness

Bart Schleyer Yukon Territory

Bart Schleyer, disappeared September 14th 2004, Remains found October 3, 2004, Red Lakes, Yukon Territory, Canada.

Bart Schleyer was a famous outdoorsman, woodsmen and hunter as well as a playboy. He was a trained scientist, who worked for the Grizzly Bear Recovery Project in Yellowstone National Park in the 1980s before moving north to Alaska. He was one of the world's foremost experts at capturing, radio-collaring and tracking Tigers and spent months in Russia working to help save endangered Siberian tigers. He had a Russian girlfriend, Tanya Perova, and they had a son, Artyom.

Bart Schleyer Yukon disappearance

Bart was born to Dr. Otis Schleyer and his wife Lula Rose, in Cheyenne, Wyoming, in 1955. Dr. Schleyer, a physician who practiced in Cheyenne, loved to hunt. He took Bart along from an early age. Bart’s sister Claudia Downey tells of Bart’s childhood obsession with animals. “He didn’t just like them; he wanted to know everything about them, study where they lived and how they lived! My dad took Bart with him on safari to Mozambique when he was 10 years old. He had a chance to witness an incredible variety of animals that he could otherwise only read about. When he finally got a chance to hunt, he was drawn even closer. Hunting seemed to give purpose to his studies.” Bart would draw pictures of animals and continued to develop as an artist into adulthood.

Bart focused his education on wildlife biology and transferred to Montana State University, where he received his master’s degree in 1979. Professor Don Collins taught an undergraduate class called Man and the Environment for more than 20 years. Dr. Collins says, “Out of the 42,000 students who took that class, Bart was a standout! He was knowledgeable in every thing wild, from animals and birds to flowers, trees, and shrubs. Bart spent a great deal of time alone in the mountains while working on his thesis, the activity patterns of grizzly bears in Yellowstone. It was as if he prepared his entire life to do this. He was superbly suited for the demands of the job. To conduct these studies, Bart used live capture techniques, and then placed telemetry radio collars on the bears to monitor their activities.”

After college, Bart stayed in Montana where he worked for Fish and Game and the Interagency Grizzly Bear Study Team. He made vital contributions to a team challenged with determining the reaction grizzly bears demonstrate following encroachment by humans. It was also important to know the habitat requirements and birth and mortality rates of the bears, including those living in the remote Bob Marshall Wilderness. His experiences in backpacking and self-reliance fostered through years of bowhunting made the research work easy for him. He stayed out in the mountains for months at a time. Packing meat for bait and heavy cable for foot snares became routine. He didn’t just endure physical hardship; he enjoyed it. 

Schleyer organised his life so that he could spend as much time as possible in the field. and he was about as tough as it gets when he was in the outdoors. He loved using a traditional bow and the arrows he made himself.

Yukon Territory Map

In September 2004, Bart went off for a trip in the Canadian wilderness. His last contact was when a chartered floatplane left him at the larger of the Reid Lakes in Canada's Yukon Territory on September 14. Reid Lakes is on the southern slope of the Selwyn Mountains about 175 miles north of town of Whitehorse and the nearest settlement is Stewart Crossing about 15 miles from the lakes, on the road from Whitehorse to Dawson. 

When the plane returned two weeks later, the experienced woodsman was gone. Strange as he was no "city slicker" and knew how to handle himself in even the most remote wilderness and could be described as a survival expert. He was well-equipped for the trip with three plastic "Action Packer'' crates with enough food for at least 2 weeks, clothing and camp gear such as a tent and an inflatable boat.

Bart Schleyer Yukon disappearance

He was reported missing on September 30th and the Royal Canadian Mounted Police (RCMP) promptly launched a comprehensive search and found nothing of Schleyer. According to the RCMP he had lunch or supper in camp since the remains were found and the rest of the food was still in the crate. He used his boat and paddled it down the lake from camp, and it was found around half a mile from camp. 

The Mounties thought there was a possibility Schleyer might have hiked out to the highway and with deteriorating weather they called it a day. Dib Williams, a friend of Schleyer's in Whitehorse was dissatisfied with the RCMP efforts and got pilot friend Wayne Curry to fly them to the camp after they had departed. 

Reid Lakes in Canada's Yukon Territory

They found his tent had been knocked down, either by wind or animals but all the equipment was there. They searched the area around the tent and found his backpack, bear spray, a knife and a VHF radio.

Williams  and Curry got increasingly concerned as they didn't buy the story that Schleyer had hiked out when he left such key equipment behind. On the second day of their search, they found his bow near the inflatable boat. 

About 60 yards back in the woods from the boat, the bow and arrows in a handmade buckskin quiver were leaned up against a tree next to a dry-bag full of gear on which he'd probably been sitting and this was located on flat ground next to a thicket of black spruce and willows. Curtis, an experienced moose hunter said it looked like the sort of place an archer might set up if trying to call a moose into range. A little further on they found a camouflage face mask with blood and hair on it and at this point, they called the RCMP back to the area.

On October 3, the Mounties, Yukon conservation officers and civilian volunteers flew back to the area to begin more detailed grid search. At first, they found little but bear and wolf tracks but then a  baseball cap was spotted by the searchers and then camouflage pants, a camera, part of a skull and just a few small bones. All these items were 60 metres or so from the bow and the Spruce tree.

The teeth in the skull enabled identification of the remains as being Schleyer. There wasn't much more of his body found. Since there was quite a bit of Grizzly excrement in the area it fuelled speculation that Schleyer had been unexpectedly killed and eaten by a bear, as happened with the famous Timothy Treadwell, whose death was captured in a documentary by Wener Herzog in 2006 called "Grizzly Man" based on left behind video footage.

In amongst the bear scat were bone fragments but no fabric in some of the samples. In Treadwell's case not only human remains were found in the bear stomach contents but also large  amounts of his clothing. Most of Schleyer's clothes were never found.

But searchers were sceptical it was a bear attack. First there was no sign of a death struggle, no vegetation or ground disturbed. The remains were found in a little patch of sparse spruce lying on the moss and if a bear killed him this would be unusual as they usually bury their kills in a cache. The remains of Treadwell and his girlfriend were found in such a cache after they were killed. But there was no cache anywhere in the area.

Even if he started off playing dead, a recommended tactic for surviving a grizzly bear attack, friends said he would have known that if the animal continued the attack the only chance for survival would be to fight back and generally speaking a bear attack is prolonged and violent.  A friend said "I think the least likely scenario is some sort of surprise encounter,'' "(But) it's hard for me to imagine having a bear sneak up and get him.''

Almost everyone who knew Schleyer believe he was simply too good a woodsman, too alert while in the forest, to have a bear catch him by surprise and his hat for example was completely untouched. And if one had, it's even harder to imagine the animal killing him without leaving signs of a struggle on a site covered with soft, easily disturbed moss. An attack goes on for a long time. The audio tape of Treadwell's death goes on for a long time, recording the sounds of him being eaten alive.

The balaclava contained little blood and hair, and his pants even less. If a bear attacks a man it won't remove his pants without them being shredded and soaked in blood. Normally bears grab the end especially when attacking from behind, causing profuse bleeding so why wasn't the balaclava blood-soaked? 

The plastic container that held his food there had not been disturbed and bear experts said that if a grizzly had killed Schleyer, it is likely the same bear would have gone to the camp given the proximity and even eat through canned food. Everything points to the evidence being scavenging related not caused by a violent direct attack.

Many agree that the circumstances of his disappearance are very strange, even if they disagree with the cause. Brigittee Parker, a spokeswoman for the Mounties in Whitehorse, said the case remains open, but the organisation leans toward the idea Schleyer was attacked and killed by a bear. "There's no foul play suspected,'' she said. "Everything at the scene suggested a bear attack and did not suggest ... foul play.'' Even for an experienced woodsman, some believe that a predatory bear could sneak up on him and deliver a fatal bite. But the Vancouver pathologist who examined Schleyer's remains found no tooth punctures in his skull nor indications of scratch marks from teeth. When bears attack people, they almost always go for the head. 

Apart from bear attack potential answers include:

  • Wolf attack, but these are even more rare than bear attacks and no physical evidence on the ground and the bag he was sitting on was untouched with no blood

  • Natural death from a heart attack or brain aneurysm with the body later taken apart by scavenging animals. At 49 years of age and at peak physical fitness it seems unlikely.

  • Murdered by the Russian mafia or another assailant