Numbers show search-and-rescue operations in national parks

WYOMING – A recent FOI request showed search-and-rescue operations inside Wyoming’s national parks ranked among the top 10 in the country in recent years.

The statistics provided did not provide numbers from 2021 – when both Yellowstone and Grand Teton national parks set visitation records.

A recent Freedom of Information request to the National Parks Authority by Outforia revealed Yellowstone National Park recorded 371 search-and-rescue incidents between 2018 and 2020, the fourth-highest amount among national parks. There were 224 search-and-rescue operations conducted at Grand Teton National Park, the eighth-highest amount, during that same time frame.

Among the 224 search-and-rescue operations in Grand Teton from 2018 to 2020, 13 of them remain open and one person remains unfound.

It’s noted the numbers supplied do not include the amount of missing people and search-and-rescue operations conducted throughout 2021, when parks all over the country saw an influx of visitation. Video blogger Gabby Petito’s disappearance outside of Grand Teton National Park gained national attention and cast a spotlight onto missing people in national parks – as well as Wyoming in general. Petito’s remains were found in the Spread Creek area outside of Grand Teton National Park. Her partner, Brain Laundrie, was the only person of interest in the case and his remains were found at a nature reserve in Florida. A coroner determined he died of a self-inflicted gunshot.

The most search-and-rescue incidents by far were conducted in Grand Canyon National Park and Yosemite National Park. There were 785 incidents at Grand Canyon and 732 at Yosemite during the same three-year timeframe. Among those, four cases remain open at Grand Canyon and five are still open at Yosemite.

As visitation increased and populations at those national parks increased, so too did the amount of search-and-rescue incidents. One national park, however, is an outlier in remaining open missing persons cases. Mount Rainier National Park in Washington recorded 101 open search-and-rescue incidents from 2018 to 2020 – the most of any national park. That is out of 146 total search-and-rescue incidents, ranking the park with the 13th-most incidents. Blue Ridge Parkway in Virginia and North Carolina reported the second-most open search-and-rescue incidents when 28.

Grand Teton National Park officials continue to survey and analyze crowd tendencies at the park to increase positive park experiences while reducing crowd interaction among each other. Park officials plead quick communication and response in the event of a missing person so an immediate search-and-rescue operation can be conducted if necessary.