Unlucky Virginia hikers stranded in forest after bear steals food, water and keys

American black bear taking hiking boot from campsite
(Image credit: Getty)

Two hikers have been rescued in Virginia after a bear pillaged their camp, leaving them without food, water, or even keys. The pair ran into the forest to escape, but got lost. When the bear found them a second time, they decided to call for help.

As local news site WFHR reports, the two individuals (who haven't been named) were camping in the scenic Big Island area of Bedford County when they encountered the animal. 

A team from Big Island Volunteer Fire Company was dispatched shortly before 5am, and attempted to locate the two missing hikers in the dark,

"The drone was sent up but could not see [through] the canopy of trees," the fire department wrote on Facebook. "Units from Big Island, Boonsboro and Amherst were sent in by foot, along with a Forest Ranger to locate hikers.

"They were found on the High Water Trail and escorted back to the parking lot. Great teamwork, and communication [led] to a successful outcome. All units cleared the area and returned to service."

Avoid attracting bears to your camp

Virginia is home to around 17,000 black bears, which are intelligent, strong, and persistent when it comes to seeking out food. This can be dangerous for both animals and humans, as it can lead to habituation and an increased risk of close encounters, but there are some simple steps you can take to avoid attracting them to your campsite.

The Virginia Department of Wildlife Resources (DWR) advises visitors to always keep their camp clean, store food in bearproof containers, sleep away from areas where food is prepared or stored, store toiletries with food (both have a strong aroma), and store clothes worn when cooking away from camp.

"If you hear a bear or other animal outside your tent, make sure it is aware of you by using a firm, monotone voice to scare the bear away," advises the DWR. "If the bear enters the tent, fight back and yell."

For more advice, see our guides what to do if you meet a bear and wildlife safety: eight tips for unexpected encounters.

Cat Ellis

Cat is the editor of Advnture, She’s been a journalist for 15 years, and was fitness and wellbeing editor on TechRadar before joining the Advnture team in 2022. She’s a UK Athletics qualified run leader, and in her spare time enjoys nothing more than lacing up her shoes and hitting the roads and trails (the muddier, the better), usually wearing at least two sports watches.