BOZEMAN — Gallatin County Sheriff Search and Rescue (SAR) are seeing an increase in calls over the last couple of weeks, potentially due to cooler weather and clear skies.
Captain Scott Secor explains that last year the ‘SAR’ team went on 115 calls, including searches, rescues, and mutual-aid calls. This year, volunteers have already responded to 107 events in the Gallatin Area.
“To some people, it’s like walking down a city street. In their mind it’s equivalent, but the reality is there are bears out this time of year, with the recent rain or differing weather conditions the terrain could change —so there’s loose rock, loose dirt."
"Going up to a heavily used trail still has its dangers,” Secor says, “I don’t want to scare anyone off and say ‘don’t use our trail system’, but you have to realize that there are inherent dangers, even when hiking up the ‘M’.”
Broken arms, broken legs, twisted knees, and medical emergencies can happy to anyone, anywhere. Secor recounts that experienced and novice hikers have gotten into dangerous situations on heavily populated trails.
Montana State University parent, Dan Matte, knows this all too well. Recently, hiking with his wife on Burke Park, or ‘Peets Hill’. Meeting a fellow hiker, the three began to chat and banter.
“We were walking along, and she collapsed,” Matte says, “We gave her any help that we could, and it was pretty evident that she had a stroke - we called 911 to get her assistance.”
Help responded to the scene, much in thanks to a charged cell phone and fellow hikers being out on the trail. Matte notes that the experience made him and his wife reconsider and pause, thinking about how they can prepare for future hikes.
Secor notes that preparing properly for a hike, bringing a friend, and ensuring that hikers pack a charged cell phone can speed up the rescue process.
Interested in becoming a volunteer with SAR?
(From the Gallatin County Sheriff Search and Rescue website) "You can get involved with SAR through membership in one of our volunteer groups. If you live in the Gallatin Valley, we encourage most people to start by joining the Valley Section. If you want to be part of Search and Rescue but don’t have the skills or can’t commit to making calls at all hours, Friends of GCSAR might be a good fit.
Each section takes on new members as needed. Becoming a full member is, at minimum, a one-year process. During that time, you'll be expected to attend 50% of trainings, which occur roughly twice a month. Operational members are expected to respond to at least 20% of all callouts. It's important to recognize that search and rescue is a major time commitment for everyone involved: members typically devote 15-20+ hours each month.
If you think you'd be a good addition to the Valley, please fill out the following questionnaire to be added to our applicant mailing list. Once you are on the list, we will keep you updated with upcoming recruitment events. For other groups, contact the person listed below.
- West Yellowstone – Contact Brock Kelly, 406-640-1361
- Big Sky – Contact Mark Bradford, 406-539-6981
And by specialty:
- Heli Team: rapid response and technical rescue in mountain terrain. Contact Jason Revisky 406-580-9473.
- Dive Team: underwater search and recovery. Contact Kavin Kelly, 406-579-8375.
- SAR Comms: communications, mapping, logistics, and drones. Contact Curtis DeVault, 406-853-1500.
- SAR Dogs: four-season wilderness SAR K9s. Contact Ladean McKittrick, 406-388-7070.
- Friends of GCSAR: Fundraising, education, and operations support for rescuers. Contact Deborah McAtee, 406-600-3476.
Another option is to volunteer to be found by the search dogs; this is a time commitment of a half or full day when it works for you. For more information and to sign up, see https://www.westernmontanasearchdogs.org/training-volunteers."