A Florida rancher who has been helping authorities search the alligator-infested swampland where Brian Laundrie told his parents he was going hiking last week says there’s little chance he has survived there for two weeks.
Alan McEwen has spent 30 years exploring the 25,000-acre Carlton Reserve in Sarasota County, Florida, and says it contains so many treacherous threats to human life that make it all but impossible to survive in.
“There’s no surviving out here, I don’t know how to say it,” Mr McEwen told Fox News.
Since Mr Laundrie, 23, told his parents he was going hiking in the reserve on 14 September, the area has seen torrential downpours that have caused trails to flood with waist-deep water.
“I’ve been in the woods in and out all my life… I have learned a lot in my life, and one thing I know is no one is gonna survive out there for two weeks on foot.” Mr McEwen said.
“Unless he’s got a butt like a duck and can float, he’s not in there.”
Mr McEwen has been assisting in the 10-day manhunt for Mr Laundrie in the reserve, taking his inflatable vessel out with search parties from the FBI and local police departments most days.
He says the ground is covered in thick brush that makes it dangerous even for experienced hikers to maintain their footing.
Mr Laundrie has been described as a skilled survivalist by friends, and would likely have been familiar with the hundreds of miles of trails in the vast Carlton Reserve.
Had Mr Laundrie been able to survive the flooding, he still would have had to contend with the dangerous wildlife in the reserve, which include 13-foot alligators, black bears, venomous snakes and panthers.
“Anything dead you find in the woods, you’re gonna look up, you’re gonna see buzzards flying like crazy,” Mr McEwen told Fox.
“No buzzards, no body is my theory. And I haven’t seen any buzzards flying.”
North Port Police say heavy rain on Sunday night has hampered search efforts in the reserve, and they were planning a scaled-back search on Monday using helicopters.
Mr Laundrie is wanted by the FBI for alleged bank fraud after his girlfriend Gabby Petito was found dead in Wyoming last week.
A memorial service for Ms Petito, 22, was held in Holbrook, New York, on Sunday.