ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. (AP) — A treasure hunter who disappeared this year while searching for an author’s cache of gold and jewels in the New Mexico wilderness was confirmed dead by authorities Tuesday after his remains were discovered west of Santa Fe.

Santa Fe Police spokesman Greg Gurule said medical investigators confirmed the remains found along the Rio Grande north of Cochiti Lake were those of Randy Bilyeu, a 54-year-old grandfather from Colorado.

Randy Bilyeu (credit: Santa Fe Police)

Randy Bilyeu (credit: Santa Fe Police)

Gurule said the investigation ito the death remains active, and declined further comment.

Bilyeu disappeared in early January while searching for antiquities dealer and writer Forrest Fenn’s $2 million trove of gold and jewels in northern New Mexico.

Fenn dropped clues about the treasure in a cryptic poem in his self-published 2011 memoir, “The Thrill of the Chase,” inspiring tens of thousands to search for it.

Fenn, an eccentric 85-year-old from Santa Fe, has inspired a cult following since his announcement several years ago that he stashed a small bronze chest somewhere in the Rocky Mountains.

The hidden treasure has inspired thousands to search in vain through remote corners of New Mexico, Yellowstone National Park and elsewhere in the mountains. Treasure hunters share their experiences on blogs and brainstorm about the clues. The mystery has been featured on national networks, igniting even more interest.

Family and friends say Bilyeu bought a raft and set out on Jan. 5 after scouting for two weeks along the river west of Santa Fe. He had a GPS device, a wetsuit and waders. He brought along his little white dog, Leo.

More than a week passed before a worried friend reached out to his ex-wife in Florida, Linda Bilyeu, who filed a missing person’s report on Jan. 14. His raft and dog were found the next day.

Authorities called off the official search for Bilyeu in January, citing a lack of evidence to point them in the right direction.

By MARY HUDETZ and SUSAN MONTOYA BRYAN, Associated Press Writers

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