One of the four hunters who went missing in the northern Alberta wilderness last weekend was found dead on Sunday afternoon, according to Mikisew Cree First Nation Chief Steve Courtoreille.
Courtoreille told CTV Edmonton that Walter Ladouceur was found dead upriver from where the hunting party’s boat was previously found in Wood Buffalo National Park.
Ladouceur was one of four men who left Fort Chipewyan, Alta. – about 200 kilometres north of Fort McMurray – on a hunting expedition on the evening of April 23 in the boat.
Andrew Ladouceur and Keith Marten, both members of the Fort Chipewyan Canadian Ranger Patrol, have not been located. The fourth missing hunter has been identified as Keanan Cardinal.
On Wednesday, RCMP and Parks Canada shifted their efforts to a recovery operation after failing to find the men in the rugged bush.
Keith Marten and Andrew Ladouceur were 15-year members of the Canadian Ranger Patrol. Walter Ladouceur joined in 2016. All three are said to be “highly experienced outdoorsmen.” The defence department notes they were on their own time when they began the hunting trip.
The 4th Canadian Ranger Patrol Group Commanding Officer Lt.-Col. Russ Meades spoke about the impact of the incident on Sunday.
“We are absolutely devastated across the unit,” he told CTV Edmonton. “When we lose brother rangers, it is felt very, very deeply indeed. The outpouring of sorrow and regret, and even encouragement and hope, has been very moving.”
The 4th Canadian Ranger Patrol Group is responsible for Canada’s four western provinces. There are 26 Canadian Rangers assigned to the Fort Chipewayn Ranger Patrol.
Rangers continue to unofficially assist the RCMP-led recovery effort, which has also drawn over 100 community volunteers.
Speaking earlier on Sunday, Courtoreille said the weather has been good, but their resources are spread over a vast expanse of difficult terrain.
“It’s not just one straight river. It’s divided up by islands, so it makes the search wider,” he said before heading out again with one of the missing man’s daughters on Sunday. “Even with forty-something boats; it’s a lot of area to cover.”
Courtoreille says the RCMP have not given any indication that they will be ending their efforts any time soon.
“They had some hits yesterday. (We are) just hoping that they can find something,” he said prior to the discovery of Ladouceur’s body. “It’s going to be tough. We just have to hope for the best.”
On Facebook, the 4th Canadian Ranger Patrol Group added a black band to their crest as a sign of mourning. Many have saluted the change and offered messages of condolence to the four men’s families. Others posted warnings about the dangers posed by icy waterways at the end of winter.
“Gone but not forgotten Rangers,” wrote Chris Cassia. “This will serve as a reminder of how dangerous cold water is, and that safety must be paramount!”
With a report from CTV Edmonton's Angela Jung