LOS PADRES NATIONAL FOREST — Search teams hunting through the Los Padres National Forest in Ventura County Sunday for missing Arcadia Firefighter Mike Herdman found and captured his dog, who vanished along with Herdman June 13 during a camping trip, authorities said.
Rescuers located Duke Sunday, however his owner remained missing, Arcadia Firefighters Association officials announced via their Twitter account.
The dog, Duke, was found about 1 p.m. near the Dough Flats portion of the forest, near the campsite from where Herdman disappeared, Ventura County sheriff’s Capt. Don Aguilar said.
“The dog was found by friends or family members who went out to Dough Flats,” Aguilar said. They managed to capture the pet, which has eluded searchers for a full week.
“It’s resting. It’s really tired,” the captain said.
The dog appeared to have lost weight while lost in the wilderness, and officials and family members were working to nurse the animal back to full health. Duke was resting in the shade Sunday afternoon.
Aguilar said the dog had travelled at least 12 miles since the animal and owner disappeared nine days prior near Dough Flats.
Duke was last spotted by searchers Thursday about six miles west of Dough Flats, before being captured back at Dough Flats early Sunday afternoon, officials said.
Duke’s condition did not immediately allow rescuers to use him as a resource to help track down Herdman.
“The dog’s not in any condition to help,” Aguilar said. “The dog is not a useful tool right now.”
But as the dog recovers from it’s ordeal, “If we think there’s an opportunity for him to help, we’ll do that,” Aguilar said.
The search has been ongoing since Herdman’s camping partner, fellow firefighter Taylor Byars, emerged from the forest disoriented June 15 and reported his friend missing, officials said.
Byars reported that Herdman had chased after his dog barefoot, wearing only shorts and a T-shirt, and has not been heard or seen since.
Officials said Byars spent a day looking for Herdman, and another day finding his own way out of the wilderness, before he was able to seek help.
More than 85 searchers continued the hunt for Herdman Sunday, Aguilar said. Since its outset, more than 375 officials and volunteers have taken part in the search, contributing more than 5,200 man-hours.
The discovery and capture of Duke came as welcome news to the searchers, Aguilar said.
“I think there’s some encouragement,” he said. “Time is not on our side, unfortunately. There’s always hope.”
“(Herdman) is highly skilled outdoorsman, so that’s why our hopes still high he’s out there,” he said.