Lost hunter found ‘cold, hungry and dehydrated’ in Green Swamp, NC deputies say


Michael Edward Abernethy, 56, is surrounded by rescuers after he was found early Tuesday, Nov. 23, in the Green Swamp.

Columbus County Sheriff’s Office photo

A hunter who went missing earlier this week in North Carolina’s Green Swamp has been found “cold, hungry, and dehydrated,” according to the Columbus County Sheriff’s Office.

Michael Edward Abernethy, 56, was reunited with his family Tuesday, Nov. 23 — a day after going missing in the Juniper Creek Game Land section of the swamp, officials said in a release.

He was greeted “with lots of hugs and kisses,” deputies reported.

Abernethy, who lives in Morganton, was believed to be in great danger after relatives learned he vanished without the necessities for a night in the wilderness, including a coat, officials said.

The family was on vacation in nearby Myrtle Beach at the time he disappeared, officials said.

“Abernethy decided to enjoy a portion of his vacation hunting in the Juniper Creek Game Land tract in the Green Swamp. … (He) was unable to find his way out of the woods,” deputies said.

“When he did not return to his family at the scheduled time, they tried calling his cellphone but did not get an answer. His family traveled to the area, locating his vehicle. Inside they found his cellphone, his heavy coat, gloves, and lunch box.”

Relatives called 911 late Monday and sheriff’s offices in Brunswick and Columbus counties joined the N.C. Wildlife Resources Commission in an air and ground search, officials said.

“Abernethy heard the search parties and moved towards them,” officials said. “At approximately 10 am (Nov. 23), Mr. Abernethy was located. He was cold, hungry, and dehydrated, but ok.”

He was checked over by first responders, but Abernethy did not need hospitalization, officials said.

“Despite being an avid outdoorsman, Mr. Abernethy would not have survived for an extended period of time without proper cold weather clothing,” officials said.

“All agencies involved recognized the urgency in finding him and diligently worked throughout the early morning hours, searching for him. We are thankful that Mr. Abernethy can enjoy Thanksgiving with his family.”

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Mark Price has been a reporter for The Charlotte Observer since 1991, covering beats including schools, crime, immigration, LGBTQ issues, homelessness and nonprofits. He graduated from the University of Memphis with majors in journalism and art history, and a minor in geology.

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