Ranger Rick: Tales From a Former YNP Ranger

Tell the Mother I Have Found Her Child

Rick Gale

It was mid-August, at about 10:00 p.m., when four of us from the Lake Sub-District headed south to Lake Lewis Campground in Yellowstone National Park to assist Grant Rangers with a search that was already underway for a missing child.

As we drove the 52 miles to Lewis Lake Campground that night, we talked about search and rescue standards we needed to keep in mind when our boots hit the ground. Search Area-Point Last Seen-Last Know Position-Probability of Detection-Clues-Containment…

When we arrived at Lewis Lake Campground an hour later, we learned that it was the child’s mother who had discovered her little boy missing. It was close to 8 p.m. when she had gone back to the tent to check on her 15 month-old toddler and couldn’t find him. Both parents and grandparents had been sitting at their campfire about 25 feet away when the child had crawled out of the tent and disappeared.

A hasty search of the campground and lake shore by first responders had been unsuccessful.

A lot was going through our minds as we thought about finding this little one as quickly as possible. There was already frost on the trees. Hypothermia was a real possibility for this little boy with any prolonged exposure to cold temperatures. There was wildlife in this area that included bears and mountain lions. What if this child had already been carried off into the woods?

While interviewing nearby campers, we learned that a small car had been seen speeding through the campground at about the same time the little boy went missing. I immediately radioed the Communication Center and requested that all vehicles leaving Yellowstone National Park be stopped and searched.

It was time to set up a grid search and move slowly and deliberately through the campground and surrounding area. It would be important for us to maintain our spacing and not take the path of least resistance as we searched for the child.

Four hours into the search, at about 3 o’clock in the morning, Ranger Harlen Kredit stood between three trees and pushed some branches aside and looked down with his headlamp and spotted the child staring up at him with his big blue eyes. Kredit gently picked him up and placed the little boy under his coat to keep him safe and warm.

For a moment, time just stood still for Kredit. He felt like God and he were the only ones that knew the child was alive.

Kredit got on his hand-held radio, “Tell the mother I have found her child and we are returning to the command post.”

Every search team made their way back to the command post in Lewis Lake Campground for the reunion of this toddler with his parents and grandparents.
As I looked around at the faces of searchers who had gathered around the family, there wasn’t a dry eye in that campground when Kredit handed the child to his mother.

For Ranger Halan Kredit, it remains one of his most emotional moments in his 40 plus seasons as a park ranger in Yellowstone National Park.

“To return a 15-month-old baby to a family was an experience that is really hard to describe.”    

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