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Hunters, outdoorsmen paid by feds to search for signs of Eric

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CHARLOTTE, N.C. (AP) -- The FBI is paying outdoorsmen familiar with the remote mountains of western North Carolina to watch for signs of serial bombing suspect Eric Rudolph, who has eluded a manhunt for more than two years.

It's the latest tactic employed by authorities, who have had no luck in tracking down the experienced backwoodsman.

However, since the FBI began paying the fees months ago, the scouts haven't been any more successful in finding Rudolph than anything else the agents have tried.

"I think it was worthwhile," said Lt. Mike Stevens of the North Carolina Wildlife Commission, who was approached by federal
agents last fall to help recruit hunters and other outdoorsmen to serve as part-time scouts. "They were pretty much grasping for
straws."

Stevens said the scouts typically were paid between $15 and $20 an hour by the FBI.

"They wanted to find someone who was willing to go up on the ridge tops at night and listen," he said. "They only wanted locals who knew the lay of the land."

Rudolph, 33, is charged in three Atlanta-area bombings, including the 1996 Olympic Park bombing in which a woman died.

Investigators also suspect he was involved in the 1998 explosion that killed a policeman and maimed a nurse at the New Woman All
Women Health Care clinic in Birmingham, Ala. Days later, Rudolph disappeared into the western North Carolina wilderness. A $1
million reward has been offered for information leading to his arrest.

This is not the first time agents have turned to the public for help in the Rudolph manhunt. In 1998, at the height of the search, the Southeast Bomb Task Force allowed hunters into the same woods agents were searching, in hopes the hunters or their dogs might find Rudolph.

More than 200 agents were searching the rugged landscape for Rudolph at the time, but now the operation is far smaller. In March, the task force announced it was vacating its command post in the mountain town of Andrews.

Task force leader Steven McCraw insisted at the time the search would continue, but with agents investigating leads and not searching the woods.

The last confirmed Rudolph sighting was in July 1998, when he was said to have visited the home of a food store owner to stock up
on provisions. McCraw said investigators believe Rudolph may have been involved in a February 1999 break-in at a local restaurant,
but no fingerprints or other evidence directly implicated him.
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