'Bear cam' viewers save stranded hiker in Alaska

Bear cam in Katmai National Park
A bear cam in Katmai National Park looks out at brown bears hunting for salmon

A lost hiker was saved in an Alaskan national park this week thanks to the vigilant viewers who were watching a bear cam livestream.

Talking to the camera on Dumpling Mountain, the hiker appeared to say "lost" and "help me".

Park rangers at Katmai National Park were alerted to the stranded hiker and were able to rescue him.

The park is one of the most remote in the US, accessible only by plane or boat.

Around 15:15 local time (00:15 BST) bear enthusiasts were tuned into the Dumpling Mountain live cam on Explore.org - a live nature camera network and documentary channel - when one viewer commented online: "There is someone distressed on the camera."

The bear cam does not play audio, but viewers wrote that the hiker appeared to be asking for help, saying they could read his lips.

Explore.org also told the BBC the hiker "gave a thumbs down signal".

There is no cell service on Dumpling Mountain - or anywhere else in the remote park.

Viewers got in touch with Explore.org staff, who were able to reach the National Park Service.

A moderator on the web cam page told the vigilant camera watchers: "Thanks viewers for letting us know. Explore is aware and able to get in touch with Katmai. They are also reviewing the footage."

The company said "staff disconnected the webcam's public feed but continued to monitor live images through webcam controls and shared further updates with National Park Service staff".

"The park sent a search and rescue team to find the hiker, who was caught in windy and rainy conditions with poor visibility," Cynthia Hernandez, a spokesperson for the National Park Service, said in a statement to the BBC.

Park rangers found the hiker at 18:48 local time "unharmed, and brought the hiker back to safety".

Explore.org shared the video clip of the stranded hiker on X, formerly known as Twitter and wrote: "Bear Cam saves a hikers life!"

Viewership for the Alaska bear cam surges ahead of Fat Bear Week, which this year takes place in early October.

Fat Bear Week is a popular online contest held by Katmai National Park that crowns one bear the fattest of them all as the animals bulk up on salmon before hibernation.

With seven cameras around the park, it is typical for people to tune into the park's popular bear fishing spots.

But the hiker was lucky people were also watching the alpine tundra of Dumpling Mountain - a considerably less picturesque spot, which was shrouded in fog when he was seeking help on Tuesday.