Agents on horseback find missing hiker after 16-hour multi-agency search at Big Bend National Park

Border Report

An RV camp sits within the Chisos Basin of the Big Bend National Park on October 16, 2016 in West Texas. Big Bend is a rugged, vast and remote region of Texas along the U.S.-Mexico border. (Photo by John Moore/Getty Images)

EL PASO, Texas (Border Report) — The U.S. Border Patrol Horse Patrol Unit helped find an experienced hiker who became lost at Big Ben National Park on Monday.

The female hiker did not return from her trek as expected Monday afternoon. Because of her level of experience, officials did not feel it was necessary to launch an overnight search, fearing it would put rescuers at risk, according to a news release from the Border Patrol’s Big Bend Sector.

However, the Border Patrol used the overnight hours to mobilize its agents, the Border Patrol Search, Trauma, and Rescue (BORSTAR) team, horse and K-9 Units, as well the National Park Service, Department of Public Safety, U.S. Customs and Border Protection Air and Marine Operations, and mobile technology.

With favorable weather conditions in the park Tuesday morning, crews deployed to the last known location of the hiker in the Chisos Basin.

After more than 16 hours of searching, agents on horseback located the footprints of the lost hiker and tracked them to a remote location in Juniper Canyon. An agent heard faint screaming and found the hiker responsive.

BORSTAR paramedics immediately tended to the hiker before a CBP Air and Marine Operations UH-60 Black Hawk helicopter flew her to Big Bend Regional Medical Center in Alpine, Texas.

“Horse Patrol is one of the most effective tools we have in performing our law enforcement, and in this case, rescue missions, because of their inherent ability to move across rugged terrain in an expedited manner,” CBP spokesman Greg L. Davis told Border Report.

Because of that rugged terrain, the Big Bend Sector and the National Park Service urge visitors to remain vigilant, keep in contact with the other members of their party, and prepare for environmental changes when hiking.

“The coordinated actions of all agencies involved led to the successful rescue of a lost hiker,” Big Bend Sector Chief Sean L. McGoffin said in a news release. “This is a great example where multiple local agencies pooled their resources to work together to save a life. We appreciate the close working partnerships in the Big Bend region.”

The Border Patrol has used horses since its founding in 1924.

The Horse Patrol Unit was thrust into the national spotlight earlier this month when images of agents on horseback blocking Haitian migrants from crossing the Rio Grande into Del Rio, Texas, surfaced.

The photos incorrectly suggested that agents were using their reins to whip at mostly Black migrants. However, the Department of Homeland Security suspended the use of horse units at the bridge.

In the Big Bend Sector, horses remain a crucial resource in patrolling the border and saving lives.

“Horses can go where vehicles cannot and where it would take personnel on foot hours to traverse the same terrain which is done in minutes by a horse,” said Davis, adding that there are no specific changes to the use of Horse Patrol within Big Bend Sector.

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