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Missing Wyoming hunter found alive in Big Horn Mountains

Missing Wyoming hunter found alive in Big Horn Mountains

A Casper man missing since Oct. 24 was found alive on Saturday, two days after rescuers suspended a two-week search for him.

Travis McMahan, 39, was found in the southern Big Horn Mountains by his father, Dave, and family friends, who were there for the weekend in a last-ditch search effort to find Travis before a snowstorm was set to hit.

A mere two days after McMahan's father Dave said he'd accepted that his son was probably dead, the two traveled home to Casper together.

"We were searching the area we've always searched, and we were up on this high ridge of rocks, looking down at this ravine," Dave McMahan explained. "Somebody yelled, and it was him yelling up at us. He was walking through the trees, and he was hard to see ... We started yelling and waved."

Travis had apparently gotten lost while trying to return to the campground where he and two hunting buddies were staying more than two weeks ago. He spent his first three nights lost in the woods before finding an abandoned sheephearder's cabin. Two nights later, he broke into a regular cabin, which had a small amount of provisions by which he could sustain himself.

"He saw the [rescue] helicopters go by, a plane search go by, but by the time he got outside, we were already gone," Dave said. "He was three ravines over from where we were searching all the time."

Melting snow for water and dividing two small sacks of provisions taken from the cabin, Travis stayed alive for the next 10 days. During four different days, he walked in different directions, trying to find civilization. Each night, he returned to the cabin, unsuccessful.

On Saturday, Travis had run out of provisions and decided to walk again until he found civilization. Instead, he found his father.

"He knew that was it. He was out of provisions, and he walked this last direction and happened to be in the right place," Dave said. "I'm glad he had his survival instincts, because he did a lot himself to survive. He had the will, but he was getting weak.

"This was the last day he could have survived."

Although he burned his toes and fingers a bit trying to warm them in a fire, Travis was in surprisingly good shape, Dave said. An ambulance checked him out, but Travis decided to travel home with his father.

"He's refused medical treatment, so he must be in pretty good shape," Sgt. Mark Sellers with the Natrona County Sheriff's Office said of McMahan's condition.

Sellers described the situation as "unbelievable."

Carol Lawrence, Dave's fiance, cried at the news that Travis had been found.

"I don't know who found him, all I know is that he could talk, and he could stand, and this is a miracle," she said. "I swear it's just a miracle. It's an answer from God to all our prayers."

Travis McMahan was the seventh missing man the Natrona County Emergency Management Office has searched for so far this year. He is also the seventh found alive.

Reporter William Browning contributed to this report. Contact reporter Megan Lee at (307) 266-0616 or megan.lee@trib.com.

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