Estonian woods being ripe with wild berries and mushrooms has contributed to people getting lost this year. Authorities have already had to help 137 foragers who have lost their way. The police urge people to consider whether they have done everything they can to avoid getting lost and make themselves easy to find before taking to the woods.
People are urged to wear brightly colored clothing as a camouflage jacket is difficult to spot in the twilight, which is when getting lost becomes likelier.
"My experience suggests people tend to get lost toward the evening. They go the woods around lunchtime and discover that they've lost track of where they are when it starts getting dark out," said Allar Lohu, field commander for the Lääne-Harju Police Department.
"It is likely that people panic. They no longer recognize their surroundings and panic," Lohu said.
Helicopters, drones and dogs were looking for a lost person near the village of Soodevahe in Rae Municipality on Thursday. The helicopter's thermal binoculars helped find the person. Soon after, a call came in from Anija Municipality and a second major search operation followed.
Search and rescue efforts have already used up more resources than they did last year, while the berry picking season is just half-way in.
"Luckily, people have had phones with them and with plenty of charge left. It has been more difficult to find people whose clothing blends in with the background, but we have managed to spot them from the air eventually," Lohu said.
The police had to find one 72-year-old woman in the woods twice this week. While it took a helicopter to find her the first time, this did not deter the mushroom hunter.
The time factor is always crucial. It takes on average three to four hours to find a lost person. People should take some food and drink with them to be able to hold out and consider wearing durable shoes. Things are most difficult when the person does not have a phone with them.
"The sooner you call, the sooner we can dispatch our resources to help you. We will initialize a search, determine where the person might be. We can use triangulation if the person has a phone with them. Searches where people do not have communication devices are the most difficult," Lohu said.
Editor: Marcus Turovski