Wilderness Rescue

Oregon's volunteer animal rescue team helps injured pups in the backcountry.
By JoAnna Lou, April 2015, Updated June 2021
It's really important for people that hike with dogs to have an emergency plan. Besides bringing canine first aid supplies, I usually bring a large backpack so that I can carry my pup if she's injured. But both people and dogs can get themselves into situations that require professional help when entering the backcountry.

Earlier this month a man was hiking along the Butte Creek Falls in Oregon when he got separated from his dog, Ranger. When he finally found the Great Dane/Mastiff mix, the poor pup was injured in a deep ravine. Unable to get down the steep cliff, a friend went to get help. Firefighters were the first to arrive on the scene and kept watch while a team of seven volunteers from the Oregon Humane Society Technical Animal Rescue Team (OHSTAR) were deployed from Portland to perform the actual rescue.

OHSTAR is made up of volunteers that are trained to evacuate injured pets from wilderness areas, including spots that can only be accessed safely using ropes, climbing equipment, and other technical rescue gear.

The specialized team drove two hours to the trail head and hiked in a mile to the rescue site. It took several attempts before they successfully pulled Ranger to safety. One person rappelled down and secured Ranger in a rescue basket. Then the two were hoisted to the top of the cliff. Although the most dangerous part was over, they still had to carry the 80-pound dog out to the trail head on a gurney where Ranger could then be driven to the emergency clinic.

Ranger was lucky on so many levels. He suffered a broken leg, scrapes, and other injuries, but was fortunate to not have any life threatening injuries from the 230-foot fall. Additionally, most areas don't have a specialized rescue team like OHSTAR. Emergency teams for people don't have the mandate or proper equipment to attempt an animal rescue, so they often can't help in a situation like this.

It's critical to be prepared when enjoying the outdoors with your dogs, but it's great to have people like OHSTAR's volunteers to help when things take a turn for the worse. 

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 Image courtesy of Oregon Humane Society