By JENNIFER K. BAUER firstname.lastname@example.org
Marvin Pillers has spent nearly 40 years following other people’s footprints.
Pillers is a trained tracker whose eyes are primed to spot the evidence people inevitably leave behind when they pass through the landscape.
“There’s no magic in it, no powders or special tools. It’s just learning to interpret what you’re seeing,” Pillers said on a recent summer afternoon as a radio crackled with the latest wild fire report in the background.
The Palouse man wears many hats. He’s a firefighter with the Palouse Fire Department and the technology coordinator for the Garfield and Palouse school districts. When it comes to tracking he is president of the Idaho State Trackers Association and is retired from 20 years as the search and rescue coordinator for Latah County.
He’ll talk about the science, or as he puts it, “common sense,” behind tracking at 6 p.m. Saturday, Aug. 8 as part of the Evening Campfire Programs at Kamiak Butte County Park.
Pillers estimates he assists on anywhere from three to 10 searches a year on incidents that require footprint analysis. Many are crime scenes or lost people. He lists some of the things he looks for — broken sticks, scuffing, a rock out of place, kinked or damaged grass and weeds and crushed leaves. By examining bruising on plants one can determine how long it has been since they’ve been damaged, he explained.
Pillers is certified as a Signcutter Master Tracker through Joel Hardin Professional Tracking Services based in Clearwater. At Saturday’s talk he will discuss other resources search and rescue crews use, including all-terrain vehicles, dogs and helicopters.
“If most people can’t see it they don’t think we can see it,” he said. “Our eyes aren’t any better than anybody else but we’ve learned to interpret what we see.”
If You Go
What: Evening Campfire Programs: Man Tracking for Search and Rescue
When: 6 p.m. Saturday, Aug. 8
Where: Kamiak Butte County Park
Directions: From Pullman take State Route 27 north 11 miles. Turn left on Clear Creek Road. Travel half a mile, then turn left on Fugate Road. Travel half a mile to Kamiak Butte County Park Road to the park entrance on the left.