Isn’t technology wonderful? Wildlife cams let you watch exotic wildlife remotely from the comfort of your home. And now they even let you organise remote mountain rescue!
That’s exactly what happened last week when viewers of a bear cam in Alaska’s Katmai National Park helped a lost hiker who wandered into the frame. The hiker stumbled in front of the lens and appeared to mouth the words “help me” and “lost.”
The bear enthusiasts were tuned in to watching the camera at 3:15 local time, hoping to catch glimpses of bears on the Dumpling Mountain live trail camera on Explore.org.
The national park is extremely remote and only accessible by plane or boat. Thick fog shrouded the mountain at the time the hiker was seen on camera. There is also no cell phone reception in that area.
The live camera feed does not transmit audio. Luckily, the viewers were able to lip-read the hiker’s words and alert staff at Explore.org to his plight. One viewer commented online, “There is someone distressed on the camera.”
Fortunately, the staff were able to contact Park authorities, who sent out a search and rescue party. The park rangers found the hiker at around 6:45 p.m. and brought him back to safety unharmed.
Explore.org has seven cameras placed around Katmai in preparation for Fat Bear Week, where the bears typically gorge on salmon. The bears increase their body weight ahead of the lean winter months of hibernation.
Trail cameras can spot some unusual animal behaviour, such as this one at Yellowstone that witnessed wolves bringing ‘toys’ for their pups.
This hiker was incredibly lucky that a handful of viewers happened to be watching at the time he needed help. The outcome could have been so different, especially in such a remote landscape. In the mountains, the weather can change in an instant. Bringing along some sort of GPS device and analogue map is a must.