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Northland hunter found dead after four-day search in Colorado mountains

After a four-day search, crews combing the mountains of northern Colorado on Friday located the body of a Northland man who had gone missing after being separated from his hunting party.

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Richard "Rick" Harkins (submitted photo via Steamboat Pilot & Today)
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After a four-day search, crews combing the mountains of northern Colorado on Friday located the body of a Northland man who had gone missing after being separated from his hunting party.
The body of Richard “Rick” Harkins, 43, who split his time between Duluth and Lake Vermilion, was found by a volunteer in the Routt National Forest northwest of Steamboat Springs. He was located not far from the hunting camp from which he had gone missing Monday.
“It’s a sad ending,” Routt County Undersheriff Ray Birch told the News Tribune on Friday night. “We spent four days in total search-and-rescue mode before going into recovery mode today.”
Birch said foul play is not suspected, and - while the case remains under investigation - there were signs that Harkins may have died from a medical condition, possibly related to the high elevation of the area.
Other members of Harkins’ hunting party said he was not feeling well Sunday night and Monday morning, Birch said.
“The symptoms described … were very consistent with what we’ve seen in the past with altitude sickness and subsequent death,” Birch said. Elevations in the area where Harkins was hunting, in the Sand Mountain and Meaden Peak areas, exceed 9,000 feet.
An autopsy will be conducted to determine a cause of death.
Birch said it appeared that Harkins stayed in camp Monday morning when the rest of his party went out hunting in the “very rugged” terrain. He exchanged a text message with a fellow member of the camp that afternoon, but was not heard from again.
Harkins’ hunting camp reported him missing Tuesday and local authorities began a ground and aerial search at daybreak Wednesday.
Law enforcement officials and volunteers searched by horseback and on foot with dog teams, as well as from the air with helicopters and fixed-wing aircraft. The U.S. Air Force assisted as well, using infrared systems in an attempt to locate Harkins overnight Wednesday into Thursday.
It wasn’t the ending searchers had hoped for, Birch said, “but at least we could provide some closure to the family.”
Harkins’ sister, Kristin Raver of Aurora, said earlier Friday that her brother was an avid outdoorsman and hunter. She said her brother had previously hunted in the area a few years ago.
Raver said Harkins was a sales representative for Castle, a snowmobile and motorcycle apparel manufacturer. He was single with no children.

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