Strategic Pet Recovery
Strategy - Technique - Tools
Field Proven Skills to Recover Lost Pets
The Search For Baylee

Date Lost: October 24, 2019
Description: Orange and white, 18 month old, female Brittany, 30lbs. She is microchipped.
Point Last Seen: Carrizo Plain Lat/Lon 35.05046, -119.69732
Last Known Position: No Sightings to Date

Baylee was with her handler,
hunting in a remote area of the Carrizo Plain.  She went
missing and there have been no sightings of her since. Immediate efforts were made by the handler to find Baylee the same afternoon and the following day, but she was not found. From that point forward, Baylee's owner used every available resource in an attempt to locate her.

The Carrizo is a vast area with minimal resources, making recovery particularly challenging.

Observations and Actions Taken to Date [11/24/19]
Baylee's owner has conducted a very strong communication campaign, to include posters and large banners in, and around, a large 25 mile radius. Social media and other forms of communication have been made to nearby and distant areas.

The owner hired a tracker with scent dogs, which tracked Baylee's scent via dirt roads on  November 4th to an end point on Soda Lake Road, with no conclusive findings.  The owner also placed personal scent articles in the field for Baylee to detect. 

A private aircraft flew over the area to look for Baylee a day or two after she went missing and a drone was deployed to fly over selected areas.

The owner also camped out for a few nights near the Point Last Seen (PLS) for Baylee in an effort to locate her, and support others who were searching.

On various dates spanning three weeks, I conducted searches for Baylee on foot and by auto. During these excursions I contacted and spoke with numerous others who were in the area bird hunting for which the area is popular. 

Area Overview
The Carrizo Plain is a vast and remote area located in the south-east corner of San Luis Obispo County. It is a dry, high desert type environment with few sources of water. However, just west of the area Baylee went missing is the Caliente Ridge which culminates in the highest point above sea level in San Luis Obispo county. The drainages for the east flank of the ridge provide several small springs as a source of water.

Wildlife in the area consist of Coyote, Bobcat, Mountain Lion, Deer, Tule Elk, and Pronghorn, among others.  Due to the lack of resources in the area, all wildlife is thought to be in minimal numbers.

The area is popular for bird hunting. While I did not see very many hunters, everyone I contacted had many years of experience on the west Carrizo and thus are very familiar with the terrain, features and off-road hunting areas.  The day Baylee went missing was described as "opening day" for bird hunting ( this  does not correspond to the Department of Fish and Wildlife website, updated 11/7/19, for hunting dates) so hunters in the area would be at a maximum.  The BLM actively patrols the area, but I did not see any patrols during my excursions.

About 20 miles north (by road) of the PLS for Baylee is a car campground named "KCL" (Kern County Lands). Hunters and others use this campground during their stay. Two separate people I contacted there were camped for weeks and became a good source of information, so I made a point to stop and talk with them on my way in, and out of the Carrizo.

Soda Lake Road connects Highway 166 to the south with Highway 58 to the north. The southern third of the Carrizo appears much less popular and most vehicle traffic along this area seem to be in a hurry to just get across the bumpy dirt road as fast as possible.

Search Activities
My activities in attempt to locate Baylee were primarily based on the PLS. From the outset, there seemed to be some confusion over the PLS, which created a challenge. The handler that was hunting with Baylee said he was alone with her and started hunting about 3PM. No one else was with him until later that day after Baylee went missing.

I established a quarter mile radius from the PLS to focus search activities coupled with wide area searches. Domestic dogs can easily smell food within a quarter mile so this technique was used in conjunction with camera traps in an attempt to detect Baylee. This protocol has always been successful when a sighting has placed a lost dog in the area, but of course with Baylee there had been zero sightings from the point she went missing.

Trail cams were setup at two nearby springs and one near the PLS. One of the two springs clearly had more wildlife activity than the other (the spring nearest to the PLS). There were no Baylee sightings on any of these cameras.  Dog prints and/or dog scat identification in the area is unusable because of hunters with their dogs walking through the area.

On two or more dates I observed what appeared to be fresh dog prints (as compared to Coyote prints) a few miles north-east of the PLS in an area where no human footprints existed. Thinking this could be Baylee, I setup a camera trap at the location. A Coyote and a domestic dog were observed on the camera, but no Baylee.

The handler sent me a screenshot of a map showing the exact location where Baylee was last seen (PLS). I conducted multiple hours long foot searches of the entire area and ridge along with its drainages attempting to detect any indication of Baylee (e.g. dog leash, dog prints, dog scat, dog fur, dog carcass, Mountain Lion cache - or any other sign of Baylee).  There was no indication of Baylee observed.

According to the handler, once Baylee went behind a specific tree, she was not heard or seen again. Given that this occurred on "opening day" with multiple other hunters in the area with long views, it seemed that something might have happened to Baylee quickly, such as an injury or attack.  My search efforts could not corroborate this possibility.

During my search activities, I spoke with multiple hunters. All of them were well acquainted with the area and they all knew of Baylee's plight before I contacted them.  Each had a theory as to why Baylee may not have been seen (predator attack, stolen, injured, etc.), but none aligned with my observations or search findings.

The more people I spoke with, the more I developed an understanding that Baylee may not be missing in the manner which I first believed. That is to say, Baylee was reported to have run off from behind a specific tree, at an approximate time of day, on a given date. The information I gathered seemed to contradict some of the original details. Of course Baylee is missing, which is tremendously sad, but a search has to be made on certain facts. Facts that I lost confidence in as I developed more information.

So while I continued looking for Baylee,  the details and my instincts told me something was amiss. An untold story which could be completely benign, or maybe something more. In the end I will never know. So after a couple more weeks of searching and using every technique available, I ended my quest. 

I expressed my best wishes to Baylee's owner with the hope that someone may pick up the phone to report a sighting. Dogs have been in the wild much longer than a month without issue, that is to say if Baylee is in the wild. Either way, I pray that Baylee makes her way home.
Area Overview
Primary Search Area
Point Last Seen Radius
Close Up View of PLS
Field Notes and Images [click on the images for a larger view]
Looking south on Soda Lake Road from
the KCL Campground exit.
The view across Soda Lake
The southbound entry to KCL
Poster on Soda Lake Road at the
intersection with the south road to the
Large sign at Tavar Ranch on the south
end of Soda Lake Road
Large poster at the PLS
South road exiting to Soda Lake
Checking tracks in the dirt
Viewing trail camera images
Evidence of something hit by a car
on Soda Lake Road just north of the
dirt to pavement change
Subsequent search of the area for
any remains of what was hit
(nothing found)
Large posters on both sides of the
marks on the road
Coyote drinking from spring1
Deer drinking from spring 1
Checking the camera and searching the
area around spring 1
A view of spring 2
A Hawk in spring 2
Upper spring 2
Lone Coyote at dry creek POI
(same Coyote that was at spring1)
Domestic dog at dry creek POI
Canine prints near dry creek
Scent articles of clothing near
PLS to attract Baylee
Scent dogs brought in to track Baylee
Baylee rescue team camp near
The specific location Baylee was last
seen by her handler AKA "Baylee's Tree"
Foot search on the ridge
above the PLS
At the far west and top of the
ridge above the PLS