Specialty dogs take up search for man missing at Sun Peaks

By Tanya Cronin
March 7, 2018 - 5:32pm

KAMLOOPS — It has been nearly three weeks since anyone has seen 20 year old Ryan Shtuka. The Alberta man disappeared after leaving a house party in Sun Peaks Resort, where he was living and working. Extensive ground and air searches have been conducted by the RCMP, Search and Rescue, and hundreds of volunteers. Wednesday, the Canadian Search and Disaster Dogs Association deployed five highly trained canines into the woods, to scour the area where it's believed Ryan 'should' be. The not-for-profit - volunteer organization - will search from dusk to dawn, until Saturday.  

"We know that if he's out in the elements, it's recovery and recovery only."

Twenty days, and each one more agonizing for Heather Shtuka. Countless hours of searching, and still no sign of her son Ryan, who vanished without a trace in Sun Peaks Resort. 

"It's just unlike him, he would never worry the people that love him the most by not getting in contact, and there's really no reason for him to go off the grid," says Heather Shtuka, Ryan's Mother.

February 17th, the last time anyone saw 20 year old Ryan Shtuka. He left a house party on Burfield Drive just after 2am, it's believed he was headed home, just a five minute walk away. 
Nearly three weeks later, a renewed search effort. Five canine specialists from the Canadian Search and Disaster Dogs Association, along with their handlers, have arrived in Sun Peaks for an intense three day hunt.

"They have a sense of smell which is really really strong, by air scenting it allows them to isolate the other scents which is better in this case," says Silvie Montier, Canadian Search and Disaster Dogs Association Team Leader. 

The dogs are trained to find human scent in wilderness, rubble and water searches. With a sense of smell a million times stronger than ours, they can detect any human trace from a distance, be it live or deceased. 

"They will catch a scent from far enough and it's very important for a situation like this where the snow is so deep the dog can't go everywhere, so he has to be able to get the scent from far enough, so that he can go in the deep snow only where it's needed," says Montier.

Trudging through nearly two metres of deep snow, the canine unit is focusing on the Burfield area where Ryan was last seen. If he is there, they are confident the dogs will find him. 

"It makes me anxious, it's a hateful word to say hopeful, I'm hoping that you find my son, but when I hope that, I also know that you're not really finding him, you're finding it's a recovery mission, that's a hard thing to wrap your mind around," says Shtuka.

Ryan's parents know if he's been out in the elements for this long, he didn't survive. But they aren't giving up, and won't leave without bringing their son home.

"Scott and I will put our lives on hold, even if it's for just a little bit of it, to focus on Ryan because if it is recovery, there won't be any more time with him, that'll be it for us, so we can do that to honour our son and spend it with him, and we won't leave until there's not one drop of snow on this ground and we can say for sure that he's not here."

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