Search continues for experienced trapper who vanished in Saskatchewan bush

Jorge Barrera
APTN National News
It’s been weeks now, but the search continues for missing trapper Eric Ratt, 58, who left his brother’s cabin on Oct. 19, 2016, and vanished into the northern Saskatchewan bush.

The searchers are now based out of a camp operated by Cameco Corporation at its Key Lake Mine site, which sits about 470 km north of La Ronge, Sask., and is the world’s largest uranium milling operation.

Lac La Ronge Indian Band Chief Tammy Cook-Searson said the search is currently being led by Ratt’s brothers and experienced bush people.

“It is not unusual for him to be out for months. He knows the land, he knows the area, bush life survival, but that is why nobody got worried until there was no sign of him in the beginning of December,” said Cook-Searson.

Ratt grew up in the area on his family’s trapline.

There are few clues to Ratt’s disappearance.

In early December his canoe was spotted by one of Ratt’s brothers, James Ratt, from an RCMP search aircraft, but they couldn’t land, said Cook-Searson. A couple of days later the searchers flew up again, this time with a helicopter, near the spot, by Highrock River, where the canoe was found.

Cook-Searson said Ratt left behind a cooler, containing some food, with the canoe, along with traps and other supplies. Ratt appears to have taken his rifle, crossbow and a backpack he often carried in the bush. Beyond that, there was no trace of him, even after an aerial search of the area, said Cook-Searson.

The band then cost-shared a third trip north with the RCMP via helicopter to Ratt’s other brother Moses Ratt’s trapline cabin by Zimmer Lake. Moses Ratt may have been the last person to see Eric Ratt before the disappearance.

Cook-Searson said Moses Ratt told the searchers that his brother Eric Ratt was “in good spirits” when he left the cabin in October.

“He said he saw him push out the canoe and (Eric) had his sleeping bag and all the supplies they described to Moses,” said Cook-Searson.

She said Eric Ratt had given Moses Ratt his cell phone to get it charged up.

Cook-Searson said the colder temperatures have allowed the searchers, on foot and on snowmobiles, to probe deeper into the bush, now that ice has formed on the area’s lakes and rivers. The searchers were backed by four dogs and eight handlers from Edmonton with the Canadian Search and Disaster Dogs Association for three days beginning Dec. 31, 2016.

“They have been searching since the beginning of December and only took a couple of days off (over Christmas) even with -40C temperatures,” said Cook-Searson.

For now, Cook-Searson’s band is leading the search, while the local RCMP detachment is acting in a consultation capacity.

“We were involved actively at the beginning of the search, with aerial searches,” said RCMP Sgt. Josh Hallett. “Our involvement (now) is fairly minimal.”

Hallett said the RCMP decided to scale back its involvement with the search because the disappearance “is not being treated as suspicious.”

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