A bear hunt alongside Virginia’s Blue Ridge Parkway was a harmful rescue mission final week when the hunter’s pack of hounds obtained trapped in an icy hole. First responders with the Glasgow Volunteer Fireplace Division have been capable of rescue all six of the looking canines over the course of two days, and the hounds have been reunited with their proprietor on Thursday, Dec. 29.

“It was a multitude,” says Fireplace Chief John Hill, who led the rescue effort close to Glasgow, Virginia. “We stay in a area the place persons are outdoors on a regular basis, and we’ve rescued a variety of canines up to now. However this was among the most treacherous stuff I’ve ever been in.”    

Again-to-Again Rescue Missions

By the point Chief Hill obtained the decision concerning the trapped bear hounds on the afternoon of Dec. 28, the division had simply completed rescuing one other looking canine. Based on a press launch on the GVFD’s Facebook page, the feminine hound, named “Bradley’s Hardtime Bonus”, had fallen right into a cavernous gap within the floor the earlier night whereas looking along with her proprietor. By the point the volunteer firefighters arrived on Wednesday morning, Bradley had already spent the night time underground.

Hill tells Outside Life that the rescue was easy. 5 firefighters confirmed up, and one in every of them was lowered into the opening with ropes and a harness.

“She was so excited to see her rescuer descending into the opening the place she spent the night time,” the division explains within the publish. “The crew from Rescue 2 was capable of shortly deliver her again above grade with no accidents. She expressed her gratitude with tail wags and licks!”

Little did the rescuers know that this mission merely a warm-up. In contrast with the duty they have been about to face, saving one hound from a gap within the floor was a cakewalk.

Trapped within the Wilderness

Hill works full-time as a Ok-9 handler for the native police division, so he’s a canine lover at coronary heart. He’s additionally a former bear hunter, and he’s acquainted with the Thunder Ridge Wilderness from his days of operating hounds after black bears. Situated off the Blue Ridge Parkway alongside the Appalachian Path, Hill says the wilderness covers among the steepest and rockiest floor within the space. It’s not simple to achieve or traverse, particularly within the wintertime, when the Nationwide Park Service closes the Parkway to automobiles. So when he obtained a name final Wednesday about six hounds that had gotten trapped within the wilderness the night time earlier than, he knew the canines have been in actual hassle.

The Blue Ridge Parkway is usually coated in snow and closed to car visitors through the wintertime. Craig Zerbe / Adobe Inventory

“The [hunter] known as and tried to inform me what was happening,” Hill says. “This was the second day the canines have been trapped in there. He had tried to go in to get them that morning, however he fell on the ice and broke his tailbone.”

The hunter, who lives a pair hours north of Glasgow, defined to Hill that his pack of 10 hounds have been operating a bear that Tuesday afternoon. The canines had chased it nicely above the path and so they ended up in a treacherous patch of ice-covered rocks. Solely 4 of the hounds made it via, and his GPS tracker confirmed that the opposite six have been nonetheless hung up within the hole.

It was after 3 p.m. on Wednesday when the hunter contacted the fireplace division, which meant that Hill and his crew solely had about 4 hours of daylight left. It might take them at the least a pair hours to achieve the canines on foot from the closest trailhead, so Hill got here up with a greater plan. He known as up the Park Service and had somebody unlock some gates so they might drive on the Parkway. However between the snow and the deadfall protecting the street, it was sluggish going. Hill says they needed to clear at the least 20 bushes earlier than they reached the closest level to the canines.

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“The canines had GPS collars, so we put these coordinates in, and from that time we have been solely about 250 yards away,” Hill says. “However Thunder Ridge is straight up and down, and there was an inch-and-a-half of ice on each rock up there. The place the place these canines have been, they name it Darkish Hole as a result of the solar by no means shines in there.”   

Down in Darkish Hole

Carrying ice cleats and harnesses, Hill and the opposite seven firefighters slowly labored their means up the mountain after which down into Darkish Hole utilizing ropes. The temps have been hovering within the 20s. As they adopted their GPS unit towards the hounds, the rescuers yelled and tried to get the canines to bark however they wouldn’t reply.

Hill was frightened that they’d gotten there too late till he lastly noticed the hounds. They have been nonetheless alive. Two have been caught in a single space, with the opposite 4 trapped additional down within the hole roughly 80 yards away.

“Image large cobblestones coated in ice. It was slick because it may very well be,” Hill says. “We might by no means have gotten in there with out cleats and ropes.”

bear hounds rescued 3
A volunteer fireman and skilled rope technician lowers one other rescuer down into the hole ; 4 of the hounds recuperate within the truck after being rescued on Dec. 29. courtesy of Glasgow Volunteer Fireplace Division

After staging at completely different factors on the steep hillside, the rescuers have been capable of rope up the closest two canines by dusk. As a lot as Hill wished to get the opposite 4, he weighed the dangers and determined in opposition to it. They must comeback the following day.

The solar was shining on the Blue Ridge Parkway after they returned to Darkish Hole the following morning, and the hunters joined in to assist with the rescue. By noon on Dec. 29, the remaining 4 canines had all been roped up from the icy hole.

After greater than 36 hours with out meals or water, the hounds have been chilly and exhausted. Thankfully, none of them had suffered any main accidents. And whereas Hill was glad to reunite the canines with their proprietor, he additionally pulled the hunter apart to ensure he knew the hazard he had put his hounds in.

“I don’t understand how lengthy they’d run earlier than they obtained trapped—I’m positive they have been worn out earlier than then,” Hill says. “However the hunter that I was, we by no means ran our canines that prime on the ice. The man arising right here, he simply had no thought the terrain he was getting himself into. We had a dialog about that, so I don’t assume he’ll be doing it once more.”

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