After nearly a week on the lam, two prison escapees are presumed to be scraping by with meager resources and little knowledge of how to outmaneuver authorities in the outdoors, survival experts say.
And eventually, fugitives Richard Matt and David Sweat are going to slip up in their attempt to outrun the law, they add.
"My thinking is they are going to get desperate," Shane Hobel, founder of the Mountain Scout Survival School in upstate New York's Hudson Valley, said Friday. "It's cold out there. There’s the factor of running out of food, running out of water and certainly running out of places to go."
Hobel said he's familiar with the wooded area near the Vermont and Canadian borders where 800 law enforcement officers have been scouring and knocking on doors in search of the convicted killers. Their efforts have been focusing on a 5-mile area east of the maximum-security Clinton Correctional Facility, where Matt and Sweat made an elaborate escape sometime between late Friday and early Saturday.
A typical backpacker could cover about 10-15 miles a day through such terrain, Hobel said. While there have been concerns that the men may have reached Canada or Vermont, authorities are still drawn to the community of Cadyville, New York, where dogs were being used to pick up the men's scents.
Hobel said the men will need to account for the "seven cardinal rules of survival": shelter, water, fire, food, tracking, awareness and movement.
They could be satisfying the first four categories if they gain access to homes and businesses in the area for cover.
"They’re skirting fringe suburban areas where they can find water, go 'dumpster diving,'" Hobel said. "There’s a lot of empty cabins in that area, too."
But if Matt and Sweat are unfamiliar outdoorsmen, they wouldn't have the skills that are needed to evade being seen or staying undetected for long.
"A true tracker looking for someone can use the surroundings to know how fast that person is going," said Hobel, who teaches law enforcement and military personnel in the art of tracking. "You can tell how full his bladder is, when was the last time he took a poo."
Police searching for alleged cop killer Eric Frein in the Pennsylvania woods last September were able to piece together the so-called survivalist's location with the soiled diapers and Serbian cigarettes he left behind. He was caught after a 48-day manhunt and had used an abandoned airport hangar as a hideout, police said.
According to Hobel, what Sweat and Matt may have going for them are the elements.
"Once it rains, that'll diminish the scent rapidly," he said, "and rain can wash away tracks."
Without any outside help, it's only a matter of time before the convicts are cornered, Hobel added: "I believe these guys are going to be complacent, they're going to get desperate and they're going to get caught."