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‘Military-style survival’: How B.C. murder suspects may be faring in the harsh Manitoba wilderness

WATCH: Manitoba manhunt: survival expert

As the nationwide manhunt continues for 18-year-old Bryer Schmegelsky and 19-year-old Kam McLeod, police have largely centred their search efforts in the town of Gillam, Man.

Gillam is a remote community located between Thompson and Churchill, situated along the Nelson River. It is home to about 1,200 people. It is also the last known location of Schmegelsky and McLeod, suspected in three murders in northern B.C.

READ MORE: Canadian Forces aid search for B.C. murder suspects in Gillam, Man.

Schmegelsky and McLeod have been charged with second-degree murder in the death of 64-year-old Leonard Dyck of B.C. and are suspected in the double homicide of Australian Lucas Fowler and American Chynna Deese.

On Monday, a burned-out SUV was found in the Gillam area. RCMP have confirmed the vehicle was driven by the suspects, and have said there have been two sightings of the young men in the area.

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B.C. MURDERS MANHUNT

The RCMP says no vehicles have been reported missing from the Gillam area, leading officers to believe the pair may still be nearby.

The search for the suspects has led RCMP to the wilderness.

WATCH: RCMP conducting door-to-door search in Gillam, Man. for B.C. murder suspects

RCMP conducting door-to-door search in Gillam, Man. for B.C. murder suspects
RCMP conducting door-to-door search in Gillam, Man. for B.C. murder suspects

The terrain around Gillam is dense with forest. The lakes and rivers lead to marshes and swampy areas teeming with mosquitoes and black flies.

As the manhunt continues, many are wondering if the suspects are in the wilderness, and if so, how they are managing to survive.

WATCH: Wilderness expert on how the B.C. murders suspects are surviving

Wilderness expert on how the BC murders suspects are surviving
Wilderness expert on how the BC murders suspects are surviving

Military-style survival

According to Sherman Kong, a survival expert and the Founder of Maple Leaf Survival in Winnipeg, the terrain near Gillam is difficult to navigate even with a map and compass.

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“Just getting from A to B can be quite treacherous, increasing the risk of probability of injury, if they’re not potentially already injured,” he said.

READ MORE: Canadian Forces approved to join air search for B.C. murder suspects

Kong says more so than gathering food and water, the suspects’ ability to deal with the insects and terrain is the most essential to their survival.

“Water is not necessarily difficult to make safe to drink, especially if they have access to it and a means to transport it, in terms of containers and things of that nature,” Kong explained. “Food, you know, you can go quite a while without food, but depending on the terrain it might have an impact on their physical exertion level.

“But the larger question is the terrain and their mobility, whether or not they’re injured, and again, the bugs can really literally drive you crazy.”

READ MORE: How police dogs help manhunts in places like northern Manitoba

Kong says the pair may be employing a military-style survival tactic to stay alive.

“The fundamental survival skills might be the same, but on one hand where the typical person lost is trying to survive and wait for help to come, make themselves visible and seen so that rescue can ensue, in this case, they might be trying to avoid rescue or detection completely,” he said.

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WATCH: Survivalist predicts how teen murder suspects might be navigating nature while in hiding

Survival instructor predicts how teen murder suspects might be navigating nature while in hiding
Survival instructor predicts how teen murder suspects might be navigating nature while in hiding

Kong says McLeod and Schmegelsky may also be taking certain precautions to avoid detection that could hamper their survival efforts.

He says if the teens have firearms, they may not be discharging them during the daytime out of fear of being located.

This could become problematic, Kong says, if the teens are using firearms to hunt, or for protection against animals or threats.

WATCH: RCMP considers possibility suspects may have left Gillam

RCMP considers possibility suspects may have left Gillam
RCMP considers possibility suspects may have left Gillam

Kong says the suspects may also refrain from lighting fires at night to stay warm and ward off animals because it’s easier to see flames during the night.

“They might be employing different tactics that are survival-based, but are more along the escape and evasion lens,” Kong said.

On Wednesday, the Manitoba RCMP posted a photo on Twitter of a polar bear spotted during the search, about 200 kilometres north of the town.

“Just some wildlife that can be found in northern Manitoba,” the tweet reads.

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But, according to Kong, it doesn’t matter how well trained, or how many supplies the suspects have if they panic and lose the ability to think coherently.

“So mindset is critical in this case because it’s not your typical survival situation,” he said. “There’s the added burden of someone looking for them because they’re on the run. That adds a whole other level of psychological dimension to the situation, which may or may not help them.”

Psychological profiles

In an interview with Global News on Saturday, criminal psychologist Eric Hickey says he believes the pair are hiding somewhere “off the radar” and out of plain sight.

“They’re hiding somewhere, probably in a barn or an abandoned cabin or in an abandoned vehicle, somewhere where they won’t be seen,” he said.

WATCH: Criminal psychologist says teen murder suspects need social media as part of survival

Criminal psychologist says teen murder suspects need social media as part of survival
Criminal psychologist says teen murder suspects need social media as part of survival

However, Hickey says that is not sustainable, because the young men will need to access additional resources, including food and social media.

“They’ll also need access to social media because that’s something that’s very, very important to people of that age group and so that will also drive them into an area where it’s populated where they can get connection to the internet,” he said.

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Meanwhile, while the suspects remain at large, Hickey says the RCMP will be speaking with their families to build psychological profiles.

Wait, There’s More: Unpacking the B.C. murders

“You know law enforcement has been in contact with their parents, they have been developing profiles of these two young men, not just about their past and their troubled pasts and their problems in school and high school, but also who’s the strongest of the two, who’s the leader, who might be the leader of the group, what are their strengths and what are their weaknesses,” he said.

Hickey says should the RCMP need to negotiate with the suspects at some point, these profiles give officers a stronger basis.

He says co-operating with the families is also essential in case the teens reach out to their parents.

WATCH: RCMP considers possibility suspects may have left Gillam

RCMP release surveillance video of B.C. murder suspects in Saskatchewan store
RCMP release surveillance video of B.C. murder suspects in Saskatchewan store

And, while the men are good friends, Hickey says it is likely that one of them has a more dominant personality and may manipulate the other.

However, he says the pair will probably stick together until the end.

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“I suspect they’ll stay together as long as they can,” he said. “If not all the way through this.”

READ MORE: Who are Kam McLeod and Bryer Schmegelsky? What we know about the suspects in northern B.C. deaths

According to Hickey, the situation could end in a number of ways.

He says the suspects may get tired of being on the run and turn themselves in, or it could end in a shootout.

Door to door canvass

On Friday, the RCMP announced officers would begin canvassing every home and building in the Gillam area and Fox Lake Cree Nation in search of the suspects.

However, in a press release issued Saturday, the RCMP said that after searching 100 empty homes and large abandoned buildings, there had been no new sightings of McLeod or Schmegelsky.

WATCH: RCMP conducting door-to-door search in Gillam, Man. for B.C. murder suspects

RCMP conducting door-to-door search in Gillam, Man. for B.C. murder suspects
RCMP conducting door-to-door search in Gillam, Man. for B.C. murder suspects

“There have been no new sightings of the suspects and no new information that would indicate that the suspects have fled the area,” the release reads. “However, our investigators remain open to the possibility and continue to ask anyone who may have inadvertently provided assistance to the suspects to come forward and contact police.”

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Earlier in the day, the Canadian Armed Forces arrived in Gillam to aid with the aerial search.

“It is critical that all Canadians remain vigilant for Kam McLeod and Bryer Schmegelsky,” the release reads. “If they are spotted, do not approach, call 9-1-1 or your local police immediately.”

-With files from Jessica Vomiero, Kerri Breen and Rachael D’Amore