hiker lost in Katmai National Parks turns to web cam for help
Explore.org and NPS

Lost Alaska Hiker Is Rescued After Viewers Spot Him on Bear Trail Cam

It's a good thing the brown bears of Katmai National Park have a devoted fan base on their trail cams.

The brown bears of Katmai National Park have a devoted fan base who regularly check what the wild animals are up to via the seven trail cams set up by the NPS in different spots the giant bears frequent. But last week, dedicated bear cam fans tuned it to find different kind of footage: Instead of a brown bear, they saw a cold and distressed hiker calling for help. 

Folks were checking on the Dumpling Mountain camera, stationed about 4 miles from Brooks River and the Brooks River Lodge, a popular place for visitors to watch bears and fish for salmon. A disheveled-looking hiker trudged on-screen, hiking out of thick fog on Dumpling Mountain, looking haggard and sopping wet with his hood up.

According to BBC, the hiker originally gave the camera a thumbs-down signal. He then passed by the camera and stopped, appearing to mouth the word "help," though there is no audio on the cameras.

There are very few trails in Katmai National Park and no trails on Dumpling Mountain itself. There is also no cell service anywhere in the park—so needless to say, the hiker was very, very lucky.

Viewers immediately raised the alarm. "There is someone distressed on the cameras," one viewer posted. Others left comments in an Explore.org chat room, alerting the organization that there was a hiker in distress on Dumpling Mountain. Explore.org then alerted the National Park Service.

"The park sent a search and rescue team to find the hiker, who was caught in windy and rainy conditions with poor visibility," National Park Service spokesperson Cynthia Hernandez told The Washington Post. "Park rangers found the hiker a few hours later, unharmed, and brought the hiker back to safety."

Viewers were able to watch the rangers disappear into the fog to look for the hiker, who fortunately had stayed near the camera.

Rescue team in Katmai seen on web camera looking for lost hiker

Explore.org and NPS

As much as it is renowned for its bears, Katmai is also infamous for its terrible weather. With its proximity to the northern Pacific Ocean and the Bering Sea, the region is incredibly stormy and windy. This weather is compounded by the fact that Katmai is mostly alpine tundra, without any trees for shelter. Visibility is estimated to have been about 50 feet on the day the hiker was lost. 

"That was a first for the bear cams for sure," said Mike Fitz, a resident naturalist with Explore.org and former Katmai park ranger, told The Washington Post. Fitz is also the creator of Fat Bear Week, an online bracket-style tournament that crowns the "Fattest Bear" in Katmai each fall, as the bears prepare themselves for hibernation. 

Many of Katmai's cameras are tuned in to the rivers that the bears frequent to fatten up for the winter. These cameras can have thousands of people watching the webcams at once. Dumpling Mountain's camera sees far less action, as it isn't near a bear fishing spot. On the day the hiker was rescued, only 19 viewers were tuned in to the camera and saw his call for help. 

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