Outdoors enthusiasts plan for every possible problem and all sorts of emergencies while afield but have you ever stopped to consider what to do if you find human remains??
I’ll grant you this is a morbid, bordering on gruesome, topic but I have believed for years that if you need to find a missing corpse, call in the mushroom hunters.
Every year as wild lands across the country fill with hikers, campers, fisherman and the aforementioned mushroom hunters, there are numerous reports of homicide victims and missing persons being found along with fish and fungus.
Though your odds of running across a corpse are fairly slim, such a find is still an outside possibility for those who spend a goodly amount of time in the outdoors. Therefore we shall take this opportunity to briefly discuss a few points in that regard. Here are a few suggestions you might keep filed away in the back of your cranium in the unlikely event such an incident takes place during your future outdoor adventures.
So you and your friends are spending a few hours looking for mushrooms or casting for smallmouth bass when, suddenly and quiet shockingly, you find yourself staring at the earthly remnants of a late, lamented fellow citizen. The most important consideration at this moment is to avoid contaminating what is potentially a crime scene.
You might have literally stumbled across a body or pulled up bones that you suspect might be human. In either case, as soon as you think human remains are present, step away from the area and preserve the scene. Though evidentiary science isn’t quiet as sophisticated (or stylish) as television would have us believe, it is important to keep even the smallest bits of evidence intact for investigators.
Perhaps most important in a wildland scenario is marking the find. Regardless if you are in a small woodlot off the side of a gravel road or the deepest reaches of Hoosier National Forest, you must visually mark the scene in order that you and officials can easily return to the area. A GPS or cell phone is exceptionally handy in this regard but you should still hang up a shirt, backpack or even string toilet paper around site to make it more easily found.
Don’t underestimate the difficulty of returning to the area, even if you have GPS coordinates. It is far easier to go overboard in marking the area than stumbling around in the dark while mumbling, “I know it was around here somewhere…”
After you have marked the site, immediately go for help or use a cellular phone to contact the authorities. Regardless, plan on having someone meet responders at an easily-identified location in order to lead them to the scene. Ideally, if group numbers allow, the stoutest-hearted hiker should remain behind to guard the area and help searchers re-find the site.
Once the authorities have arrived, plan on spending a few hours giving a statement and being questioned about the incident. Don’t take any of this personally; if the deceased was your loved one, you would also want investigators to be thorough.
One final tip: blood-curdling screams are optional but very therapeutic.