MANCOS, Colo. (AP) – Rescuers are searching a rugged area near the Mesa Verde National Park headquarters in Colorado for a Texas man missing since Sunday.

Park spokeswoman Betty Lieurance said Tuesday about 50 people on horseback, on foot and in a helicopter are searching canyons and trails for Mitchell Stehling, 51, of Goliad, Texas.

Stehling was reported missing by relatives, and searches on Sunday and Monday failed to turn up any sign of him.

Lieurance said Stehling might have taken a trail that leads to petroglyphs – drawings that were painted or carved into the walls by ancestral residents.

The park contains more than 4,000 known archaeological sites, including cliff dwellings, which are elaborate stone villages that the Ancestral Puebloans built in sheltered alcoves of canyon walls. The ruins are about 40 miles west of Durango.

One of the mysteries of the park is why the civilization deserted its canyon wall homes.

Tara Travis, a curator of Mesa Verde’s collections, said a combination of factors is thought to have driven them away, including prolonged drought and conflicts with neighbors.

Because of budget cuts, the park reduced its budget earlier this year by $335,000, but Lieurance said park leaders are trying to reduce the impact on visitors. The park has left several full-time permanent positions unfilled, delayed new hiring and trimmed its vehicle fleet.

(© Copyright 2013 The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.)


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