Fat Bear Week camera saves Alaska hiker's life

Bears at Brooks Falls, Katmai National Park and Preserve, Alaska
Fat Bear Week doesn't start for another month, but viewers are already checking the web cam (Image credit: Rebecca Harding)

Viewers checking out the Fat Bear Week camera at Katmai National Park this week were shocked when a lost and scared hiker showed up in the frame begging for help.

The remote Alaska National Park set up the webcam on Dumpling Overlook back in 2014 when it launched Fat Bear Week, a bizarre yearly event where viewers can vote for which grizzly bear they think will fatten up the most in preparation for hibernation.

Fat Bear Week has become so popular that viewers increasingly access the video feed on Explore.org year-round, hoping to glimpse a bear in the wild. On Tuesday afternoon, however, viewers instead saw a soaked hiker emerge out of the mist and approach the camera. 

The feed has no audio, but they were able to read the man's lips, which seemed to be saying the words "lost" and "help." The quick-thinking viewers commented under the feed that there seemed to be a hiker in need of assistance. Administrators for Explore quickly alerted the NPS, and soon a mountain rescue team located the man.

The hike from Brooks Camp requires 800 feet of elevation gain over 1.5 miles, and the hiker had got caught in windy and rainy conditions.

Katmai is one of the best brown (grizzly) bear viewing areas in the world with well over 2,000 bears and some of the highest bear densities ever recorded. You can only access this park by air or boat, and hiking and camping opportunities abound if you have solid backcountry and navigation skills (there are less than five miles of trails here). 

For now, it's back to regularly scheduled programming on the Fat Bear Week camera, with dates of the competition to be announced later this month.

Julia Clarke

Julia Clarke is a staff writer for Advnture.com and the author of the book Restorative Yoga for Beginners. She loves to explore mountains on foot, bike, skis and belay and then recover on the the yoga mat. Julia graduated with a degree in journalism in 2004 and spent eight years working as a radio presenter in Kansas City, Vermont, Boston and New York City before discovering the joys of the Rocky Mountains. She then detoured west to Colorado and enjoyed 11 years teaching yoga in Vail before returning to her hometown of Glasgow, Scotland in 2020 to focus on family and writing.