Help!

Help!

By now, you’ve probably heard of the Texas couple hiking with their infant daughter on the Purgatory Flats trail, north of Durango, who called for a search and rescue helicopter after spotting a mountain lion.

What hasn’t been addressed, however, is who ultimately paid for the flight out.

Ron Corkish, president of La Plata County Search and Rescue, said no – you can’t just call for a helicopter ride if you see a mountain lion. But in this instance, the mom, with her baby, was, shall we say, seriously freaking out and refused offers to hike out with rescue crews. So, Corkish said the quickest way to remedy the situation was to call a Flight for Life. “There’s just no consoling an unhappy mom,” he said.

Flight for Life, for its part, said it could help. So in just an hour’s time, the Texas family was extricated. It should be noted, however, the mountain lion showed zero signs of aggression.

Lindsay Radford, spokeswoman for Centura Health (which runs FFL), said the family was not billed for the flight, but she was unable to provide a total cost of the operation. Pilots are contracted and on-call, so their time is already being paid for. The only real expense was the fuel, but Radford was unable to provide those numbers. Also, FFL did not administer medical care, so it could not charge the family on that front. All in all, the flight was absorbed by the company’s operating expenses. And if there was a true life-threatening emergency elsewhere, Radford said pilots would have diverted to that mission.

Anyway, the take-away message here, if there is one, is: when you go into the backcountry, there’s a chance you’re going to see wildlife.  And perhaps (we’re treading lightly here) it’s not the best idea to take away emergency resources for a nonemergency situation.

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