HALIFAX -- The search for a missing three-year-old boy has now shifted to a recovery operation.

In a statement Thursday evening, the Truro Police Service said the extensive search efforts for Dylan Ehler “have not yielded any new clues or information.”

“In consultation with the family, we are now moving from a search mode to a recovery mode,” said police.

“This does not mean the team has given up on finding Dylan.”

search for missing boy

Boy disappeared from yard Wednesday afternoon

Truro Police Chief Dave MacNeil told reporters earlier Thursday afternoon that Dylan had been playing with his grandmother outside of her home on Elizabeth Street when he disappeared Wednesday afternoon.

MacNeil said she got distracted by her dog and, when she turned around, Dylan was gone.

“His grandmother became briefly distracted and turned around for a moment, and when she turned back, Dylan was no longer in the yard,” said MacNeil.

The boy’s grandfather, Norman Brown, told CTV News that Dylan is very active and loves to run.

“He thinks it’s a game. Once he’s out and about, he loves to run. He was outside with his grandmother. Then he was gone,” said Brown.

“It’s the worst feeling in the world. I’ve never been helpless before in my life, but I am now.”

search for missing boy in Truro, N.S.

Searchers focus on riverbank after boots found

MacNeil said Dylan was reported missing around 1:20 p.m. Wednesday and patrol officers were on scene within four minutes of the first call.

He said investigators quickly gathered information and evidence, including a photo and description of the boy, and canvassed the neighbourhood.

A K9 unit responded to the scene and tracked the boy’s scent as police searched garages, sheds and compost bins.

Colchester Ground Search and Rescue, the Truro Fire Service and a Department of Natural Resources helicopter joined the search and scoured the ground, air and water -- including a brook and river near the grandmother’s home.

“There’s a quick-moving brook, Lepper Brook, that runs parallel to Elizabeth Street,” explained MacNeil. “The water is very high there this time of year and it’s moving fairly quickly. Firefighters did go into the river, probably chest-height, and they were searching the river.”

He said search crews found one of Dylan’s rubber boots in Lepper Brook at 7:20 p.m.

“From there we concentrated our efforts with a helicopter and more ground-intensive searching in that area,” said MacNeil.

Search crews found the second boot further down the brook, close to where it meets the Salmon River, before 9 p.m.

But there was still no sign of the boy.

“Telling them that we found his rubber boots wasn’t easy, but they’re a strong family, and they’re coming to grips with any outcome that’s possible,” said MacNeil.

“We’re keeping positive. We’re going to work as hard as we can to try to find Dylan.”

search for missing boy

Extensive search stretches into second day

Crews used thermal-imaging and underwater cameras as the extensive search continued overnight.

Halifax Ground Search and Rescue relieved the local team early Thursday morning and the provincial dive team was also called to the scene.

“Divers have been in the water, intensively around the brook where the boots have been found,” said MacNeil. “They’re in the water currently working up and down the brook and into the Salmon River.”

MacNeil said more than 60 people were involved in Thursday’s search, which was focused around the brook and river.

He said it’s possible the boy could have been carried into the Cobequid Bay. Crews walked along the river up to the bay and a helicopter was back on scene, circling the area overhead.

MacNeil noted that the cold, wet weather presented extra challenges on Thursday.

“We have to keep optimistic. That’s what’s keeping us going, but yeah, I mean the temperatures are cold, the water’s really, really cold.”

McNeil said the search would continue into the evening, but he wasn’t certain if it would continue overnight.

“We’re not going to stop searching, but things may scale back, things may ramp up,” he said.

“Right now we’re focused on keeping optimistic and doing everything we can to find Dylan.”

MacNeil noted that many residents have been asking if they can help, but he said additional assistance isn’t needed at this time.

“When people are untrained and they do try to help search, oftentimes they miss clues, maybe trample over evidence, or maybe become a risk of falling in the raging water themselves, so we’re just asking people to show support, prayers and thoughts for the family,” he explained.

Truro Police Chief Dave MacNeil

Why wasn’t an Amber Alert issued?

Some residents have been questioning why an Amber Alert wasn’t issued, but MacNeil said Dylan’s disappearance didn’t meet the criteria.

He said there is no evidence to suggest that the boy has been abducted or met with foul play, which is required for an Amber Alert.

Instead, a localized emergency alert was issued shortly after 4:30 p.m. Wednesday.

MacNeil said it was a “non-intrusive” alert, so it didn’t go to cellphones, but was pushed to social media and government sites.

More sadness in Colchester County

The boy’s disappearance is yet another difficult situation for residents of Colchester County to process.

Last month, a gunman went on a rampage in Nova Scotia, killing 22 people in several communities close to Truro, N.S.

Last week, a Canadian Forces helicopter crashed off the coast of Greece, killing six people, including Sub-Lt. Matthew Pyke, who was originally from Truro and lived in nearby Rawdon.

“We’ve suffered a great deal of loss in the last couple of weeks," said MacNeil. “People are very supportive, staying positive, and trying to work through this as best we can, but we have had our share, no doubt.”

Coun. Cathy Hinton said she is feeling heartbroken after the recent string of tragedies.

“I don’t think probably anyone in my ward, and certainly in this town, went to bed without tears in their eyes last night,” she said.

“There’s been so much going on. It’s just unbelievable.”

After this post from @Seebo429 on Twitter, many others posted pictures of boots on their front doorstep with the hashtag #BootsForDylan.

With files from CTV Atlantic's Suzette Belliveau