A distressing and dangerous situation turned into an incredibly lucky rescue when a lost hiker in Alaska stumbled across a wildlife camera. On September 5th, wildlife enthusiasts logged onto Katmai National Park’s Dumpling Mountain livestream, in hopes of catching a glimpse of one of the park’s brown bears. Instead, around 3:30 pm Alaskan time, they witnessed a distressed hiker walk into view, surrounded by a blanket of fog.
Bear Cam Saves Lost Hiker in Alaska
The lost hiker, looking cold and exhausted, and dressed in a green rain jacket pulled tightly around his face, spoke directly to the camera. Viewers could make out the man mouthing the words “help me” and “lost”. A viewer sprung into action, writing on the stream’s live chat “There is someone distressed on the camera”. A chat moderator of the nature-oriented host site, explore.org messaged officials at Katmai National Park. They explained the hiker’s emergent situation. Within a few hours, park rangers were able to locate the man amid the poor weather conditions and bring him back to safety. Luckily, the hiker was found unharmed.
Explore.org is the host of about 10 bear cam live streams and highlight reels throughout Katmai National Park. The number of viewers is often the highest during and in the days leading up to “Fat Bear Week”- a delightful event in which bear cam livestream viewers are encouraged to vote for the brown bear who appears to have become the most rotund in their effort to fatten up before winter. Since its founding in 2014, Fat Bear Week starts at the beginning of October. The annual celebration of Katmai’s chonky brown bears has become quite popular, with almost 800,000 votes cast in 2021. The proximity to this event may have increased the number of viewers on the stream which ultimately led to the hiker’s rescue.
As the footage shows, the visibility on Dumpling Mountain was extremely poor. Dense fog rolling in can quickly lead to disorientation as once-visible landmarks disappear amid a blanket of white. Finding the wildlife camera was a stroke of incredible luck, let alone during a period of significantly decreased visibility and when viewers were actively online.
The Brown Bears of Katmai National Park
According to the National Park Service, the Katmai National Park is “one of the premier brown bear viewing areas in the world”. Approximately 2,200 brown bears inhabit this remote area. This national park is located on the Alaskan Peninsula, where the bear population outnumbers human residents. This means the bears enjoy pristine wilderness, living largely undisturbed by the impacts of human civilization.
In Alaska, grizzly and brown bears are typically distinguished by where they live. Inland bears are the grizzlies. They are usually smaller than their coastal relatives because they have limited or no access to calorie-rich marine food sources. Brown bears, typically growing larger than grizzlies, inhabit the coastal regions, such as the Alaskan Peninsula. While they have different common names, they are members of the same taxonomic classification, Ursus arctos.
Katmai’s brown bear population primarily owes their enormous size and rapid, late-summer weight gain to the park’s healthy salmon population. In 2022, the internet dubbed Bear 747, affectionately called Bear Force One, the Fat Bear Week 2022 winner. The individual weighed an estimated 1,400 pounds and was about 20 years old at the time of his victory.
The photo featured at the top of this post is © Michal_K/Shutterstock.com
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