Sheriff: Body of missing elk hunter found in Gifford Pinchot NF

The body of a Vancouver man who’d been reported missing from his hunting trip earlier this month was found Friday, the Skamania County Sheriff’s Office announced Saturday.

Joel Presler, 37, had not been heard from since Saturday, Nov. 11, when he went on an elk hunting trip in the Gifford Pinchot National Forest. Authorities found his 2004 Ford pickup on Wednesday, Nov. 15, on a Forest Service road in the Forlorn Lakes area. Nearly three feet of snow had piled up next to the vehicle at the time. The search was suspended a week ago, on Nov. 18.

The Clark County Medical Examiner’s Office will conduct an autopsy.

An investigation continues, Sheriff Dave Brown said, adding that hypothermia likely was a factor in Presler’s death.

Presler was found dressed in a shirt, pants and boots, but not with a winter parka, gloves or hat, the sheriff said. It had been snowing heavily in the initial days of Presler’s hunt and the subsequent search. His body was 100 to 150 yards from the vehicle.

Silver Star Search and Rescue volunteers found items about 100 yards from the pickup on Friday afternoon, the sheriff said.

The personal items — approximately 50 yards from Presler’s body, including his pack and clothing — “were indicative of hypothermic behavior,” Brown said, as people who are experiencing the symptoms of hypothermia will shed clothing under the false belief they are overheating.

No evidence points to anything suspicious in the death, the sheriff said.

After Silver Star Search and Rescue discovered the personal items on Friday, sheriff’s deputies arrived at the pickup’s location and searched the surrounding area, finding Presler’s body.

A news release noted that temperatures had risen and snow had melted this week near the pickup, which had been removed on Wednesday.

Silver Star Search and Rescue members returned to the area Friday because “conditions were prime to re-investigate,” said Rick Blevins, president and training officer of the Washougal, Washington-based volunteer organization.

From the pickup’s location, “we hiked 2 1/2 miles over the wilderness,” Blevins said. “On the way back we picked up possible evidence and then contacted the sheriff’s office.”

Blevins said about 2 feet of snow remained on the ground Friday. At least 4 feet of heavy, wet snow accumulated by Thursday, Nov. 16, he said.

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