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Retired FBI special agent gives insight on challenges authorities face at Carlton Reserve

Bloodhounds on the ground to track Laundrie
Bloodhound tracking potential scent of Brian Laundrie, person of interest in Gabby Petito's death.
Posted at 8:55 PM, Sep 21, 2021
and last updated 2021-09-21 23:16:53-04

NORTH PORT, Fla. — After law enforcement took a day off searching the Carlton Reserve on Monday, they were back out in the 25,000-acre nature preserve on Tuesday.

On Monday, North Port police tweeted they had no "plans to conduct a major search of the Carlton Reserve today." That all changed late in the day following a search warrant executed at the Laundrie residence.

LIVE BLOG: The latest on the Gabby Petito case

During the search warrant, investigators were seen bringing out evidence bags. A silver Ford Mustang that Brian Laundrie drove to the preserve was also taken into evidence.

Brian Kensel, a retired FBI special agent, told ABC Action News reporter Michael Paluska the terrain and environment in the preserve are some of the harshest and most challenging terrains in the country.

"It is an extremely difficult environment in which to find somebody even that wants to be found a lost hiker or someone who's injured," Kensel said. "It's hard enough to find somebody like that. So if you're trying to find someone who wants to hide and who does not want to be found, that complicates even more that makes the search just that much more difficult."

The 25,000 acres of land is full of swamps, marshes, thick brush, snakes, and alligators. Florida storms and excessive heat are also factors impacting the search.

Kensel said Bloodhounds trying to pick up Laundrie's scent from personal items collected at the home would also face challenges because of the weather.

"They can track him on land extremely well, it's amazing to watch those dogs work, how well they work. But once you get into the water, they lose the scent," Kensel said.

Helicopters and drones are equipped with the most advanced technology around, including forward-looking infrared (FLIR).

"Things like that looking for a heat signature don't work if it's not a live person if there's no source of heat. So that is an option, of course, that has to be considered."

There are also highly sensitive listening devices that law enforcement can use to pick up even the lowest audible sounds and movement. But that is assuming Laundrie is actually in the preserve and alive.

"And, of course, there's wildlife to deal with alligators and snakes and things like that, that you also have to be on the lookout for," Kensel said.

Search crews plan to be back out in the nature preserve first thing Wednesday morning.