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Dog survives West Vancouver cliff fall but still on the run, North Shore Rescue says

Dog survives cliff fall

UPDATE 2:50 p.m.

North Shore Rescue now says a dog that fell off a cliff at Cypress Mountain ski resort on Monday has survived.

But rescuers and the owner alike have been unable to corral the errant mutt. After returning to the area with a helicopter Tuesday morning, searchers made several sightings of the dog on various ski runs and trails.

As is frequently the case for domestic dogs that have been lost in the backcountry, the dog appears to be feral and is not responding to humans calling for it by name.

“At one point, it ran near the actual owner who was on the trail and the owner called its name and it was just freaking out. It kept going,” he said. “It just was on a mission. It was go, go, go go.”

Sovdat said the dog has since made it to the main parking lot and bolted toward the other side of the resort, with the owner trying to catch it.


ORIGINAL 2 p.m.

North Shore Rescue members saved a mother and son who became lost and hypothermic in Mosquito Creek, Monday. And volunteers remain in the field trying to recover a dog that fell over a cliff at Cypress Mountain ski resort.

The calls for help stacked up almost simultaneously Monday evening, said search manager Stan Sovdat, starting with the dog.

Cypress Mountain ski resort is now closed for the season, but the mountain still attracts some people going up on their own looking for one last bit of adventure. North Shore Rescue received a call for help after a man’s ski popped off near the top of the Sky Chair lift and his dog bolted after it.

“Of course, the terrain just got steeper and steeper, and then it got really icy and the dog just completely lost control and disappeared from view,” Sovdat said.

Normally, North Shore Rescue will not take on searches for lost pets and the province will not offer support. But Sovdat said they were worried that the owner and their friends would try to go down the cliff by themselves.

“We see it as a bit of a public risk thing. In order to stop them from getting into potential trouble, we decided it would be in our interest to do it,” he said.

A rescue volunteer roped down the steep cliff and spotted what looked like an impact spot with some brown fluid in the snow, but Sovdat said they could not see the dog. The team also searched the area using a drone, but attempting to find a black dog within the dense vegetation also proved difficult.

Grouse Mountain trail mishap

Just after 6 p.m. another ground team had to be put into action after a mother and son called 911 to report that they were lost in Mosquito Creek. They had hoped to find the site of an 1950s jet crash on the side of Grouse Mountain, but changed plans and got turned around.

By the time rescuers were on their way, the pair had lost their cell signal. Luckily, the team had some rough co-ordinates to work with.

“They ended up on trails that they had no idea about and it’s a bit of a labyrinth and the trails go all over the place,” he said. “They crossed the creek in their shorts and t-shirts and runners in thigh-deep, flowing water.… Our team got on scene and had to go down some very steep, dirty terrain to get to their location and found they were both hypothermic.”

The team supplied them with some warm clothes, water and food, but getting them out required rescuers to help them back up 120 metres of 45-degree slope with a series of ropes.

From the main trail, they were driven back to the top of Mountain Highway where their family and the RCMP were waiting.

The callout offers a lot of teachable moments, Sovdat said, from how the pair got lost to how they would survive had rescuers not been able to find them.

“Stick to your plan. Don’t try to do something you really don’t know about. When you’re hiking, please be prepared. Bring appropriate gear,” he said. “They had basically stopped. You can see everything was getting worse for them. Navigation is a huge thing, especially if you’re going to somewhere you don’t know.”

Making matters more challenging, for more than a decade, someone has been actively removing the trail markings in the area, Sovdat said.

“Good Samaritans go up and mark the trails, and then the markers get pulled down, putting people’s lives at risk,” he said.

Search for Cypress Mountain dog resumes

North Shore Rescue was back out on Tuesday morning with a helicopter in hopes of finding the dog near Cypress. The provincial government will not fund any helicopter time for animal rescues, so the team is dipping into its own donations to cover the cost, Sovdat said.

Sovdat said if the helicopter team sees any sign of the dog, they will likely return with a series of ropes and try to retrieve it. But based on what they learned the day before, Sovdat said they are “assuming the worst” and that he expects it will be a recovery operation.

A “lost dog” post on social media Tuesday morning refers to the dog as Freeway, a three-year-old lab mix, weighing about 55 pounds.

“We’ve had dogs survive a month and a half wandering around the wilderness and been found,” Sovdat said “It’s strange to think about, but it does happen.”

Dogs are allowed in Cypress Park but they must be leashed.



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