Hiking rescues increase in Southern California; could social media be to blame?

As the weather warms up, more people will head outdoors to hiking spots throughout Southern California and elsewhere. However, more people outdoors means more mountain rescues.

“Last year our eight-volunteer Search and Rescue teams had a record 684 missions. In 2016, we had 593 and there has been a fairly steady rise over the last few years,” said Mike Leum, assistant director of the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department and the department’s SAR group leader.

Other departments in the region saw a similar increase in rescues.

In 2016, Orange County SAR teams were called to 32 rescues involving a hoist, Sheriff’s Department data shows. That number nearly doubled to 58 in 2017 and in the first four months of 2018, teams have already conducted 17 missions.

Riverside County search crews see between 150 and 170 lost hiker rescues each year, according to Deputy Mike Vasquez. That number ebbs and flows over the years, he said.

In San Bernardino County, crews worked 371 rescues in 2017 compared to 265 in 2016, according to sheriff’s officials. That included a jump in helicopter hoist missions from 55 in 2016 to 73 last year.

This year, there have already been at least two deaths in Southern California wilderness areas.

While it’s hard to pinpoint why there’s been such a dramatic increase in rescues and deaths, several law enforcement officials have see one common denominator: Social media.

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