Snowshoers’ Rescue Amazes Maine Sportsmen
Comments from astonished sportsmen have poured in about two women who were rescued by a Maine game warden after getting lost while snowshoeing last Sunday in Harpswell.
To be kind, I will not name the women, for reasons that will be obvious in a moment, although their names did appear in reporter Seth Koenig’s account of the rescue in The Times Record on Valentine's Day.
This story was not a valentine to sportsmen.
According to Koenig’s account, the two women were snowshoeing behind the Harpswell town office on Sunday afternoon when they decided they were lost. First they phoned a friend, but when the friend’s directions proved inadequate, they dialed 911 for help.
Warden Stone responded, first zeroing in on the location of the women using his GPS and one woman’s cell phone signal.
“Stone then walked into the woods to that location and helped them find their way (out),” reported Koenig. Stone also provided the women with warming packs, blankets, and Stone’s parkas. They were checked by local Emergency Medical Services staff after emerging from the woods.
Deborah Turcotte, spokeswoman for the Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife, told Koenig, “They were fine. Just a bit cold, but fine.”
Glad to know they were fine. Fine and foolish. The question Koenig might have posed to the women was best presented in this emailed message to me.
“Why couldn’t these two intrepid souls find their OWN SNOWSHOE tracks to follow out?”
Indeed, simply reversing course and following their own trail would have gotten them back to their starting point, saving a great deal of expense and time by the Maine Warden Service and local emergency staff.
Several western states have options to collect money from those who are rescued, or from all outdoor recreationists, to fund search and rescue operations. The Maine Warden Service also has that option and one can only hope that a bill will be forthcoming to these two women.
“This problem will only get worse as society falls further and further away from passing on good common sense and an outdoor ethic and skill set to our young people,” said my emailing friend.
“Don’t get me wrong,” he wrote. “I absolutely want our game wardens tasked with finding lost people on any recreational variety or persuasion or just someone that wanders off. They absolutely are the best at it.”
But he concluded, “I just don’t want one group, MINE, to pay for it.” He joins tens of thousands of other sportsmen who think only sportsmen pay for these rescues. Actually, all taxpayers share in the cost.
Since U.S. Rep. Mike Michaud successfully advocated many years ago, when he was a state senator and a member of the legislature’s Appropriations Committee, for the state’s General Fund tax money to reimburse the Maine Warden Service for search and rescue missions of those who don’t purchase licenses and permits from IF&W, the department has received tax money each year for those missions.
Governor LePage’s proposed budget for the next biennium includes $364,143 next year and $369,954 the following year for those rescue missions of nonsportsmen. The Warden Service must submit an accounting of the money spent on those rescues before received these funds.
That, of course, shouldn’t diminish the call to bill the ladies for their rescue, because taxpayers should not have to pay for that rescue either, when the ladies could have simply turned around and found their way out!
Maybe they just couldn’t find the reverse gear in their snowshoes.