Missing New Mexico Hiker and Pet Cat Found Starving in National Forest

PHOTO: Margaret Lisa Page was first reported missing in February, and was found by search and recovery teams on the morning of March 7, 2012, in Gila National Forest.
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An Albuquerque woman with a reported history of mental illness was found alive along with her pet cat in a remote area of a New Mexico national forest. She had not been seen for more than two months.

Margaret Page, 41, was found Wednesday morning about a mile and a half up the Railroad Canyon Trail in the Gila National Forest. A search and rescue team located Page about 20 yards from the trail in a sleeping bag, her house cat, Miya, by her side.

"She was responsive, but obviously starving and a little dehydrated," said Vic Villalobos of the Mesilla Valley Search and Rescue team. "She said it had been three or four days since the last bits of food she brought with her had run out, and she had been drinking water from a nearby stream."

Page was reported missing by co-worker and friend Denise Tierney on Feb. 14 after Tierney said she hadn't had contact with her since Jan. 5. They worked together at a non-profit called Yes We Can which supports disabled small business owners.

In the missing persons report, Tierney told police Page had a long history of mental illness and had been diagnosed with depression and Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. Page was being treated as an outpatient at the University of New Mexico Hospital Mental Health Unit, according to a police report.

"We were concerned that we hadn't heard from her and could not get in touch with her, so I reached out to her sister, who lives out of state," Tierney said. "We both agreed to file the report."

On Feb. 10, Page's car was spotted near the head of the trail, but park rangers said it is not uncommon for cars to be parked there for extended periods of time. Two weeks later, on Feb. 25, a volunteer noticed the car had still not been moved, took down the license plate number, and traced the car back to Page.

Three or four days passed before the park service alerted police, Andrew Loescher, public affairs specialist at Gila National Park, told ABC News. Loescher said from there, any search and rescue efforts are handled by New Mexico State Police.

State Police and members of the Grant County Search and Rescue team began searching for Page on Tuesday, and called in additional help from Villalobos and his team that evening.

Page had been hiking in that area of the park before, according to Villalobos, but her landlord, Adam Rodriguez, told police Page said she was travelling to visit friends in Florida and never mentioned plans to go to the forest.

The Gila National Forest is made up of 3.5 million acres of land in southwestern New Mexico. Loescher said the park has an extensive trail system with some extremely remote parts, including those in which Page was found.

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