Police are searching for a man in western Manitoba following an assault on a woman by a hitchhiker.

The 42-year-old woman told police she stopped for the man on Highway 45, near Russell, at about 3:30 p.m. on Wednesday. The man said he was heading to Rossburn, about 40 kilometres east of Russell, which is near the boundary with Saskatchewan.

Once inside the vehicle, he assaulted the woman and forced her to travel a short distance along an adjacent gravel road, according to RCMP.

The woman was able to escape the vehicle by distracting the man near a farm site. Once she got away, she called 911 but the suspect stole the woman's car and fled the scene prior to police arrival.

RCMP units from detachments in Russell, Rossburn, Waywayseecappo, Shoal Lake, Elphinstone and Hamiota were dispatched to the scene, assisted by the Yorkton RCMP police dog service and Dauphin forensic identification unit.

They conducted an extensive search of the area for the man but were unable to locate him.

The woman, who lives in Russell, suffered minor injuries and did not require hospitalization, according to RCMP.

The suspect is described as being about six feet tall with a medium build, and long, brown hair pulled into a ponytail. Police are looking for the woman's white, late model, two-door Ford Thunderbird.

Anyone who has seen the car or may have seen the hitchhiker on Highway 45 is asked to contact the Russell RCMP at (204) 773-2105, or Manitoba Crime Stoppers at 1-800-222-8477(TIPS).