MISSOULA — Flathead County search and rescue teams are looking for a 25-year-old Arizona woman who went missing after a day hike in the Great Bear Wilderness.
"We have people in the area as we speak," Flathead County Sheriff Chuck Curry said on Monday afternoon. "But we probably will scale down during nighttime. At this point, we have no evidence of a bear encounter. There are bears in the area, but there are occupants in the area, too."
Jim Pierce, director of Two Bear Air, said search teams have seen an adult black bear and two cubs in the area where Madeline Connelly went missing and have come across bear tracks around the places where Connelly’s footprints were found.
According to Curry, teams began looking for Connelly on Saturday, two days after she went on the hike. Connelly was in the Kalispell area visiting relatives, who found her vehicle at the Bear Creek trailhead near Essex.
Pierce said Two Bear Air has been shuttling search crews into the area since the search began, and are also conducting night vision and thermal imaging searches after dark. Flathead County Sheriff's deputies, Glacier National Park rangers and North Valley Search and Rescue members are helping with the ground search.
He said teams found footprints from Connelly and her dog, and tracked them around 12 miles into the backcountry near Twentyfive Mile Creek before losing the prints.
“We’ve been concentrating on trying to pick them back up,” Pierce said.