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SHERIDAN — One phone call Wednesday morning led to three recoveries of three separate groups caught by heavy snows in the Kerns Wildlife Habitat Management Area located 12 miles northwest of Parkman in the Bighorn Mountains.
Thirteen members of Sheridan County Search and Rescue, seven from Johnson County Search and Rescue, and Wyoming Game and Fish Game Warden Dustin Shorma assisted in the rescue, which also involved removing three horses and a few dogs, Sheridan County Sheriff’s Office Spokesman Lt. Mark Conrad said.
There were no injuries reported.
At 6 a.m. Wednesday, the Sheridan County Sheriff’s office received a call from a Campbell County resident who had received a text message at 8 p.m. Tuesday from friends who were elk hunting and camping in Kerns Wildlife Habitat Management Area.
The message said they needed help because they were stuck in 3 feet of snow and couldn’t get their horses out, Conrad said.
The Campbell County man said he didn’t have any way to help them himself and wasn’t sure what to do, so he called the sheriff’s office to report the problem.
The sheriff’s office contacted Shorma who knew the group had packed in 14 miles above the Kerns parking area to the Miller Cow Camp.
“Once we knew where they were located, we started staging the rescue,” Conrad said.
By noon Wednesday, the search and rescue teams had assembled and arrived at Kerns to begin the rescue. Conrad said the effort was not a search since locations were known.
On the way into Miller Cow Camp on snowmobiles, the rescue team encountered a Dayton resident who had not called for help but accepted assistance because he had been trying to dig out for hours and was tired, Conrad said. He was not injured.
The search and rescue teams continued on and found four adults and one child from Sheridan County stuck near Culligan Camp. They had not called for help, but their truck was buried in the snow, their other vehicles were disabled mechanically and their ATV was also disabled, Conrad said. All five were taken out on snowmobiles.
The third group that had sent the original text message asking for help consisted of five adults, three horses and some dogs from Campbell County. They were located approximately 14 miles into the Kerns at Miller Cow Camp.
The people were taken to safety, and then search and rescue teams returned and made paths with their snowmobiles to get the horses and dogs out, Conrad said.
“It was a weird anomaly with 30-36 inches of wet snow. Up higher there was actually less snow,” Conrad said. “It was just a wild set of circumstances that turned one rescue into three.
“All subjects were very happy to see us,” Conrad added.
Conrad estimated the total cost of the rescue to be about $500 in fuel costs for volunteer search and rescue team members.
Search and rescue operations are funded by donations and voluntary $1 donations submitted with hunting licenses. At the end of the year, sheriff’s offices, which are responsible for search and rescue efforts in their counties, may submit bills for rescue efforts to the Wyoming Search and Rescue Council for reimbursement, Conrad said, adding that the department usually receives approximately 90 percent reimbursement.