Five things to know about the dangers of Manitoba’s northern wilderness

B.C. murder suspects Kam McLeod and Bryer Schmegelsky are still on the run

RCMP search an area near Gillam, Man. in this photo posted to their Twitter page on Tuesday, July 30, 2019. (THE CANADIAN PRESS/Twitter, Manitoba RCMP

RCMP search an area near Gillam, Man. in this photo posted to their Twitter page on Tuesday, July 30, 2019. (THE CANADIAN PRESS/Twitter, Manitoba RCMP

The RCMP have been searching a remote area in northern Manitoba for more than a week trying to find murder suspects Bryer Schmegelsky and Kam McLeod.

A burned-out vehicle the fugitives were driving was found near the town of Gillam, Man., 1,000 kilometres northeast of Winnipeg.

READ MORE: Military pulls back, RCMP ‘scales down’ manhunt for B.C. murder suspects

Authorities have called the landscape unforgiving, and officials in the area say it’s a treacherous place this time of year, even for seasoned hunters and trappers. Here are some of the dangers:

TERRAIN

John McDonald, Gillam’s deputy mayor, says the area in the summer is covered in muskeg — bog consisting of water and partially dead vegetation often covered by moss.

“You can be walking along on it and all of a sudden break through to the water,” he says.

There are trapping trails, he adds, but those usually run a little more than a kilometre before reaching wet areas.

Daryll Hedman, a big game biologist with the provincial government, says the area has a lot of creeks and rivers the suspects would have to swim across.

Utility line workers often wait until winter to walk go into the area, he says. “Because you’ve got good, frozen ground underneath you.”

BUGS AND WILDLIFE

Blood-sucking insects are a big problem in the region, and there are a lot of them in the summer, Hedman says.

“The bugs up there, they are unreal,” he says of the mosquitoes, sandflies and horseflies.

McDonald says black bears and wolves are in the area, but they mostly leave people alone. Polar bears, which have been known to stalk people, have also been spotted outside Gillam.

WEATHER

Temperatures were as high as 30 C when the search for the suspects began in Manitoba a week ago, McDonald says. But overnight lows have dipped down to single digits.

“If you are wet, it’s quite easy to get hypothermia when it’s plus eight degrees outside,” he says. “But we don’t know what kind of supplies they have.”

FOOD

Besides hunting, there’s not much food to be found.

“We don’t have much for berries out yet,” Hedman says. “They would need to do some scavenging or catching the odd rabbit.”

There are caribou in the area, but McDonald says “that’s not something that you are just going to wander into the wilderness and feed yourself with whenever you get hungry.”

RELATED:

TRANSPORTATION

There is only one road into Gillam and one road into nearby Fox Lake Cree Nation. To the southeast, the community of York Landing is only accessible by plane or boat.

“Any other areas around there, they have winter roads, but they aren’t frozen,” Hedman says. “You still have swamps, rivers and lakes to cross.”

The Nelson River to the west can’t be crossed because its current is too swift, he adds. To the east, there is more muskeg, then Hudson Bay.

Trains go south to Winnipeg and north to Churchill, where the rail line ends.

The Canadian Press

Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Alberta's chief medical officer of health Dr. Deena Hinshaw says Albertans need to keep making safe choices to start bending the curve back down. (Photo by Chris Schwarz/Government of Alberta)
One new COVID-19 death in Red Deer, 257 additional cases province-wide

Red Deer sits at 459 active cases of the virus

File photo
Norris Beach Road Tender Approved

County of Wetaskiwin Council awarded the tender for Range Road 11 to Crow Enterprises Ltd.

Alberta Premier Jason Kenney said Thursday that the province may consider a regional approach to loosening COVID-19 restrictions if numbers continue to decline. (photo by Chris Schwarz/Government of Alberta)
Province further easing health restrictions

Numbers of people hospitalized and in intensive care has dropped dramatically, says premier

Government of Alberta COVID-19 Aggregate Data Map. Screen Grab/ https://www.alberta.ca/stats/covid-19-alberta-statistics.htm#geospatial
City of Wetaskiwin under 10 active cases; single active case in County

Active COVID-19 cases in the City and County of Wetaskiwin continue to drop.

File photo
Alberta’s central zone has 670 active cases

301 new cases identified Sunday

A health-care worker looks at a dose of the COVID-19 vaccine at the Palais de Congress site as Quebec begins mass vaccinations based on age across the province, Monday, March 1, 2021 in Montreal.THE CANADIAN PRESS/Ryan Remiorz
Nearly 1 million COVID-19 vaccine doses arriving in Canada this week: Anand

Anita Anand says she’s received assurances from the vaccine manufacturer

Samantha Sharpe, 25, was stabbed to death at Sunchild First Nation on Dec. 12, 2018. Chelsey Lagrelle was sentenced to 4.5 years in prison for manslaughter in a Red Deer courtroom on Tuesday. Photo contributed
Central Alberta woman sentenced to 4 1/2 years for stabbing friend to death in 2018

Chelsey Lagrelle earlier pleaded guilty to stabbing Samantha Sharpe during argument

Calgary police say they received 80 hate crime complaints between January and November 2020. (Pixabay)
‘Racism is a real problem:’ Muslim women fearful following attacks in Edmonton

So far in 2021, three of seven hate-crime-related investigations have involved Somali-Muslim women

Alberta Minister of Health Tyler Shandro speaks during a news conference in Calgary on May 29, 2020. Shandro says Alberta is considering whether to extend the time between COVID-19 vaccine shots to four months. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jeff McIntosh
Alberta may follow B.C.’s lead on faster rollout of first COVID-19 dose

Tyler Shandro says a committee of COVID-19 experts is analyzing emerging data and a decision is coming

A locally-produced video project aims to preserve Canada’s railway history

‘Railways have been an integral part of Canadian history since 1836’

Ryan Jake Applegarth of Ponoka, 28, is scheduled to appear at Ponoka Provincial Court on March 12, 2021. (File photo)
Discussions about justice continue as Ponoka murder victim’s case proceeds

Reaction to comments Ponoka Staff Sgt. Chris Smiley made to town council last month

Dr. Stanley Read
Hometown Bashaw doctor recognized with alumni award for AIDS work

Dr. Stanley Read, born and raised in Bashaw, is considered a global health leader

A copy of the book “And to Think That I Saw It on Mulberry Street,” by Dr. Seuss, rests in a chair, Monday, March 1, 2021, in Walpole, Mass. Dr. Seuss Enterprises, the business that preserves and protects the author and illustrator’s legacy, announced on his birthday, Tuesday, March 2, 2021, that it would cease publication of several children’s titles including “And to Think That I Saw It on Mulberry Street” and “If I Ran the Zoo,” because of insensitive and racist imagery. (AP Photo/Steven Senne)
6 Dr. Seuss books won’t be published for racist images

Books affected include McElligot’s Pool, On Beyond Zebra!, Scrambled Eggs Super! and The Cat’s Quizzer

AstraZeneca’s vaccine ready for use at the vaccination centre in Apolda, Germany, Sunday, Feb. 28, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Michael Reichel/dpa via AP
National panel advises against using Oxford-AstraZeneca’s COVID-19 vaccine on seniors

NACI panel said vaccines from Pfizer and Moderna are preferred for seniors ‘due to suggested superior efficacy’

Most Read