They can slog through deep mud, power through hip-high snow, drive across ice, and even float and pull themselves back onto the ice if they break through.
They’re called SHERP all-terrain vehicles, and one will soon belong to the Pennington County Sheriff’s Office for use by the Pennington County Search and Rescue Team.
On Tuesday during a meeting at the county's Administration Building, the Pennington County Commission unanimously authorized the sheriff’s office to purchase a SHERP Pro for $121,217.
Chief Deputy Brian Mueller said the price is a bargain compared to one of the three snowcats that the county was considering replacing at a potential cost of $200,000 used, or up to $400,000 new.
“We figured out this vehicle is much more capable than a snowcat,” Mueller said.
The county’s SHERP Pro will be purchased from a regional SHERP dealer in Bemidji, Minnesota. Search and Rescue member Shawn Gab said the dealer allowed team members to test a SHERP in the field near Chamberlain, and they came away impressed.
“It does a lot of things that other vehicles just can’t do,” Gab said.
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SHERPs are made by a Russian company and have been described in the media as mini monster trucks and tank-like ATVs.
Gab said the SHERP that the sheriff’s office will purchase has 5-feet-tall tires that can be inflated and deflated with a control in the cab. The cab is so large that 10 Search and Rescue Team members climbed into the test model with room to spare, Gab said. The test included driving into the Missouri River.
The huge volume of the vehicle’s tires make it float, and paddle-like treads allow the vehicle to motor along slowly like a boat. Gab showed the commission a video of a SHERP breaking through ice, paddling along in the water, and then climbing back up out of the water when its tires gripped thicker ice. The video also showed a SHERP motoring along in a rushing stream, which Gab said will be handy for his team’s support of the local water-rescue team.
On land, the video showed a SHERP driving over small trees, over boulders and across every kind of terrain.
“Not every rescue we go on will be like that, but it is very comforting to know that if it is, we can actually get through,” Gab said.
Besides the SHERP that will be purchased by the county, the Search and Rescue Team hopes to eventually buy an additional SHERP with privately raised money.