Search-and-rescue rangers safely extracted a pet dog from a 20-foot-deep earth crack in Hawaii Volcanoes National Park over the weekend.
On Saturday evening, Oct. 3, Marta Caproni was walking her two pet dogs off leash near the Volcano golf course and the park boundary when the dogs ran off into a heavily vegetated area. One dog came back, but Romeo, a 4-year-old chocolate brown Labrador retriever, did not return.
Officials said the owner searched into the night but could not locate him. When she returned to the area in the morning, she heard a faint whining coming from deep within an earth crack and called for help.
Park rangers responded to the call, assessed the situation and determined that a safe extraction could be accomplished.
Using high-angle technical rope rescue techniques, ranger Arnold Nakata was lowered 20 feet into the narrow crack where he found Romeo in good condition. Nakata rigged Romeo with a harness and the topside rescue team slowly pulled them out of the ground.
“It’s just the most amazing feeling of happiness and gratitude to live in a place where we had these park rangers handle these types of situations, and I’m so lost for words because I just don’t know how to express my gratitude,” Caproni said.
Typically, the national park would not use technical rescue for animals. Dogs and other pets are not allowed in many areas of the national park for safety reasons, and for the protection of threatened and endangered species. Authorized service animals are permitted, but may be prohibited from certain areas if their presence is detrimental to park management programs, like nēnē recovery.
All pets and service dogs must be leashed in the park at all times. Hikers have reported being bitten by dogs off leash on park trails, and other pets have fallen into earth cracks and steam vents and have not survived.
Caproni says she’ll keep her dogs on leash at all times from now on.
“We are glad that this rescue had a happy ending, because our pets are like family. The best way to protect them is not expose them unnecessarily to potentially hazardous areas that are prevalent in a national park,” said Park Superintendent Cindy Orlando.