(CNN) — For more than three weeks, local and federal authorities have searched a more than 10,100-hectare nature reserve in search of 22-year-old Gabby Petito’s fiancé Brian Laundrie.
On Sept. 1, Laundrie returned in Petito’s van to the couple’s home in North Port, Florida, following a road trip the couple had undertaken in the early summer, according to police. Petito’s remains were later found in Teton County, Wyoming.
Laundrie has not been charged with a crime in the Petito murder. Laundrie’s parents told police the young man left home on September 13 – a day earlier than investigators were initially told – to go on a field trip to the nearby Carlton Preserve.
Dozens of agents from agencies including the FBI, the North Port Police Department, the Florida Wildlife Commission, various sheriff’s offices, and K9 search and rescue teams have searched the reservation since Laundrie’s parents spoke for first time with the police on September 17.
“The Carlton Preserve is a vast and unforgiving place at times. It currently has (waist-deep) water in many areas,” North Port police said in a Facebook post last month. “This is dangerous work for search teams as they roam through alligator- and snake-infested swamps and flooded hiking and biking trails.”
CNN asked survival experts if Laundrie might be alive if he’s been on the reservation since mid-September. This is what they said.
It depends on your supplies and your experience
In an interview with ABC that aired last week, Laundrie’s sister, Cassie Laundrie, said that he had previously taken trips of up to five days on the Appalachian Trail. He noted that his brother is a “mediocre survivor.”
Robert Urban, founder and chief instructor of the Urban Survival Academy, said he believes that it is highly unlikely that someone without professional training in survival tactics would be able to survive on the reserve for that long.
“Florida’s weather is very, very difficult,” Urban told CNN. “I’m a very experienced expert, and all I could do is survive for (more) three weeks. Someone without experience can’t be lucky and survive in that kind of weather.”
The list of challenges Laundrie could face is not short. There are wild animals that could harm you, such as water moccasins, pigs, bears and alligators, survival experts told CNN. There have also been sightings of panthers in the reserve in the past. If Laundrie was in the reserve for that long, he probably wasn’t operating under the best mindset either, several experts added, due to the anxiety of trying to evade authorities and trying to survive, which could hamper his survival skills.
“When you’re tired, you’re not as defensive, you’re not as vigilant as you should be,” Urban said.
Jason Marsteiner, founder and president of The Survival University, said that when he sends his program students out into the wild – for just a week after taking a 50-day course – they have a hard time.
“Twenty-five days in that area are extremely hard. I would not like to do it, and I have training in the jungle and in the mountains,” he says. “He is not sleeping well, and when you do not sleep you go crazy little by little, so he would be making bad decisions, bad choices and I think that would cause him to be found or injured or perished.”
I would need shelter, water, food
It is unclear what Laundrie took with her when she left. His parents told police that he left the house with a backpack. Experts say that a large part of whether you could still be alive if you were in the reserve depends on how prepared you were when you supposedly entered and your ability to obtain the three basic elements: shelter, water and food.
“If you had ways to disinfect your water through seepage and (cover) to protect yourself from the elements and things like that, you could survive for a certain period of time,” survival expert Dave Canterbury told CNN’s Erin Burnett on Thursday. . “If I had ways of gathering food and processing that food, I could survive even longer.”
But Laundrie would likely have to process and cook the food it collects, Canterbury added, and if its water filtration system failed, it would have to find another way to disinfect the water. Both of these would probably require you to build a fire.
However, North Port police spokesman Josh Taylor told CNN’s Randi Kaye on Friday that authorities have not found any physical evidence of Laundrie in the reservation. Police also disputed that a recently used camp was found, information given to CNN by a source close to the Laundrie family.
“Lighting a fire is going to be a big no-no for (Laundrie) if he doesn’t want to be found or seen, so I think it’s going to be very difficult for him to stay there for a very long period,” Canterbury said. But he added that Laundrie might have had enough in his backpack to survive until now.
Alan McEwen, a rancher and outdoor enthusiast who lives near the reserve, said the area looks like a “quagmire,” with parts of the reserve reaching knee and waist-high water levels, making it which makes camping in that wilderness extremely difficult.
“The palm hearts are enough to make you fall, when you walk through them, when you trip over them,” McEwen told CNN’s Chris Cuomo on Friday night. “The mosquitoes will drag you down, anyone who is out there for more than a day without mosquito spray would go crazy with the bugs trapping you and everything else.”
“There is no possible way for someone to survive out there like that,” he added. “Nobody”.
As Byron Kerns, founder of the Itchatad Outdoor Survival School sees it, Laundrie’s most immediate need would be water, and if he carried a water filtration pump, it could last him gallons. But after three weeks, Laundrie would need to get food, and if he isn’t trained and doesn’t have the right tools, knowing what to eat and how to get it can be tricky.
“Bugs can also be a source of protein in nature, but does he know that?” Says Kerns.
Experts believe that he is not alive or that he is not there
Laundrie’s family attorney, Steven Bertolino, told CNN in response to a question that he is “hopeful” that Laundrie is still alive. Taylor, the North Port police spokesman, told CNN that it is “certainly possible” that Laundrie is alive.
“There is nothing to suggest one thing or the other,” Taylor said in an email. Survival experts CNN spoke to seem to agree that Laundrie is no longer alive or not on the reservation.
“(Authorities) probably have some of their best people in the nation looking for him and they haven’t found any sign of him,” Marsteiner said. “The 10,117 hectares, it seems big, but when you have so many people scouring the area they really are not.”
It is highly unlikely that he will be able to camp out and continue to evade the search teams that have been looking for him, Urban added.
“A guy untrained and used to walking the trails is not going to elude a team of experts like that just by hiding,” Urban said, adding that he also believes Laundrie is not on the reservation or not alive there.
If Laundrie is in the preserve but not alive, finding him becomes more difficult as the days go by, Urban added, with the movement of water and sand, as well as passing animals. But there has also been no indication that Laundrie is dead.
“When you have something dead out there, you’re going to have vultures flying all over the place,” McEwen told Cuomo on Friday. “You don’t see a vulture flying anywhere, and no vulture has been flying in any direction from this place.”