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Cadaver Dogs Detect Scent in Search

But rescuers still find no evidence to lead them to David Gonzales, 9, missing from a campsite for a week. They also try to track down a mountain lion.

August 07, 2004|Louis Sahagun | Times Staff Writer

The search for a 9-year-old boy missing in the San Bernardino Mountains focused Friday on a scent detected by cadaver dogs as well as the hunt for an elusive mountain lion known to roam the area.

But as the full-scale effort to find David Gonzales continued into its seventh day, a rescuer who forced himself through thick brambles Friday summed up the sentiments of scores of searchers.

"We have no footprints, no sightings, nothing," said San Bernardino County Sheriff's Deputy Danny Ritchea. "It's really frustrating.... It's like an eagle picked up that boy."

Authorities say about 300 volunteers and search-and-rescue workers are expected to help look for the boy this weekend, three times the number who have searched so far.

If the boy or his remains are not found by Monday, authorities said, they probably will scale back the search significantly.

"Sunday night will be a turning point," said sheriff's spokesman Chip Patterson. "We'll have to take a hard look at the operation."

For the first time since the search began, dogs trained to detect cadavers signaled a scent Friday about a half-mile northeast of the Hanna Flat campground, where David disappeared July 31.

"Of course, it could be a dead animal," said San Bernardino County Sheriff Gary Penrod.

High temperatures made it difficult for the dogs to track the scent. But by early evening, they had led searchers on a barking and howling chase up a high ridgeline about two miles northeast of the campground. From an elevation almost 2,000 feet higher than Hanna Flat, the dogs rooted around dense stands of pine trees but had found nothing as of Friday night.

Meanwhile, trackers for several days have been trying to find a mountain lion known to rove the area around Hanna Flat. Although authorities have no evidence that the boy was attacked, they hope to examine the lion's claws.

"If we find it, we'll try and capture it, and then take swabs of its claws for DNA testing," said Kevin Brennan, a wildlife biologist with the California Department of Fish and Game. "We should have the results back in as little as 24 hours."

David and his family were enjoying their last summer outing camping with friends when the boy disappeared from the campsite.

His father, who returned to the campground Friday, said, "I appreciate the investigation and that it is continuing.

"But I still have no evidence. Nothing."

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