Correction: An earlier version of this story stated Michael Ficery went missing in Yellowstone. He actually went missing in Yosemite National Park.
By Ellen Fike, Cowboy State Daily
People going missing in national parks is not uncommon.
However, the searches vary according to the situations and can last for just hours or stretch into multiple days, Grand Teton National Park spokeswoman Denise Germann told Cowboy State Daily this week.
In the most recent case, that of Cian McLaughlin, 27, who has been missing in the park for more than a week, searchers have to be vigilant and extremely cautious, especially when looking through the backcountry, she said.
“The staff here has to have some specialized skills in order to do a search, because you’re dealing with both the Teton Range and the backcountry,” Germann said. “When managing a search operation, it’s not just leading search and rescue, but also managing the safety of all the people involved in the search.”
Germann noted that staff is called “routinely” about missing persons in the park, but people are generally found within a few hours, most often in less than a day. There have only been a few large searches in recent years.
Currently, around 50 people are searching for McLaughlin, including park staff, Teton County Search and Rescue and dog teams.
It was believed McLaughlin intended to go hiking early last week. He was last seen at about 2:30 p.m. Tuesday, June 8, about one-half mile from the Lupine Meadows Trailhead, where his vehicle was found Sunday.
On Wednesday, rangers received a report of someone seeing a man fitting McLaughlin’s description on June 8 hiking up the Garnet Canyon trail.
Germann noted that each search has its own set of complexities, from the weather to where the person is missing from and the person’s knowledge of the area.
“Many times when people go missing, we have no clue where to start looking, so we have to search for evidence to narrow down a probable area,” she said. “It’s important people share any information they might have with us. I think this is also a key reminder to let someone know where you’re going and when you plan to be back. It could be a lifesaver.”
She did not indicate when the search for McLaughlin might be called off, stressing that every situation is different and that park staff would continue searching for him.
According to the Missing NPF website, a database that collects information about people missing in national parks, four people have disappeared into Yellowstone National Park and were never seen again: Stuart Isaac in 2010, Bruce Pike in 2006 and Daniel Campbell in 1991.
McLaughlin was listed as the only person missing in Grand Teton.
“We put everything we’ve got into these searches,” Germann said. “We’ve got the trail crew, firefighters, scientists, anyone who has the skills to be in this challenging terrain.”