The man signaled to the camera that he needed help
People watching bears via a live cam set up at Dumpling Mountain in Katmai National Park are being credited with saving a lost hiker.
According to USA Today, the camera is located in a spot 2,200 feet high. Those who view the live footage usually want to see mountains, lakes, and wildlife. But on Tuesday, September 5 at around 4 p.m. Alaska time, people spotted a lost hiker who looked directly into the camera and gave a thumbs down signal. He then walked off, came back, and asked for help.
Mike Fitz, founder of Fat Bear Week, a former ranger at Katmai National Park and resident naturalist for Explore.org, said strong wind, rain, and fog caused poor visibility that day.
“Webcam viewers were still watching it, to my surprise, actually, and they were paying attention, which was doubly surprising,” Fitz said. “You couldn't see any of the landscape. It would be extremely unlikely animals would be visible because you couldn't see very far.”
Comments under the webcam revealed the moments viewers spotted the man.
“There is someone distressed on the camera 3:30 p.m. - 3:43,” wrote one viewer.
A webcam and chat moderator thanked the viewers for alerting them. Moderators then informed the park rangers and word got back to Fitz.
He worked with a camera operator to see if he could spot the hiker.
“We couldn't see him the whole entire time, like the three hours in between when we first saw him and when the rangers got there,” Fitz said. “Every once in a while he was reappearing on camera, which was good. It seemed like he was remaining in place.”
Two rangers responded to the scene where they located the hiker and took him to a camp area.
Fitz said he can “fully understand how somebody could have lost their way on the mountain in that situation.”
“Even though you’re only two straight-line miles from Brooks River and the lodge in the park visitor center that happens to be there in the campground, in that situation, it can feel like a world apart,” Fritz shared. “The weather often is much worse on top of the mountain… because the weather is so fierce, it's just really difficult to get your bearings.”
Once the hiker was rescued, people posted their excitement in the comments section.
"I am also glad that there were many good lip readers in this community," wrote one viewer. "All I was able to catch was 'help me' and 'lost' but others got more. I imagine the hiker thought the camera mic would pick him up. Since it couldn't, I am glad he chose to speak with his face very close to the camera. He just looked so cold, wet, and miserable."
Fitz said he is thankful to everyone who made the rescue possible.
“We have webcam viewers from all around the world,” he said. “They're always watching. They're always paying attention. They helped me learn a lot more about the brown bears and salmon, which are typically the focus of our webcams in Katmai National Park.”
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