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Helicopter, dog teams still at work in scaled-back search for missing hiker near Red Lodge

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Posted at 6:12 PM, Jul 13, 2021
and last updated 2021-07-13 20:12:19-04

RD LODGE - The search for Tatum Morell in the Beartooth Mountains outside of Red Lodge continued Tuesday with a helicopter, and dog teams will be deployed later this week.

Morell, a 23-year-old Montana State University graduate student from Idaho, has been missing since July 1 when she contacted family from a campsite before a planned hike to several peaks in the area of the West Fork of Rock Creek. An intensive search effort was launched July 5, but authorities announced July 10 that their efforts would be scaled back after determining it was unlikely that Morell was still alive.

On Tuesday, the search effort included a flyover by a Two Bear Air SAR helicopter to investigate areas of interest identified by analysis of high-resolution imagery taken during the search looking for colors or objects not consistent with the surrounding landscape, according to a press release.

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The track log of Two Bear Air's flight Tuesday.

Authorities said four dog teams will stay in the area Friday through Sunday to "conduct additional searches for human scent. The dog teams request, if possible, the public avoid the area of Marker and Ship Lakes and the eastern faces of Sundance and Bowback mountains while the dogs are working," the press release states.

"The less scent that’s in the area while they’re actively searching helps them focus a little better, so if possible if there were not people in that area that would be helpful to improve the success of the dog teams," says Carbon County search and rescue coordinator Jon Trapp.

Authorities provided these additional details about the search effort:

Rescue efforts have included:

  • Cell phone “pings”
  • InReach “pings”
  • Information searches on her personal accounts
  • Mountain rescue teams
  • Search dog teams
  • Ground search teams
  • Aerial searches by
    • Red Lodge Fire Rescue (visual),
    • Yellowstone County Sheriff’s office (visual),
    • Gallatin County SAR (visual)
    • Two Bear Air, (visual, infrared, Recco, cell phone tracking)
    • Army National Guard (high resolution visual and infrared cameras),
  • The search area contains countless rock fields, car-sized boulders, scree fields, and snowfields and some areas require technical experience and advanced backcountry knowledge. The size of the search area and the difficulty of the terrain makes searching extremely dangerous to rescuers.
  • Based on the conditions, terrain, search effort, and the time she has been missing, her family, Red Lodge Search and Rescue, and the Carbon County Sheriff’s office believe it is not likely she survived.

RELATED: Searchers believe missing hiker near Red Lodge is dead; search scaled back