Hiker missing after being “charged by multiple bears” found alive

A female hiker on Alaska’s Pioneer Ridge Trail who went missing after being “charged by multiple bears” was found injured but alive, local authorities said Wednesday.

Alaska State Troopers (AST) were notified by a volunteer search-and-rescue member that the 55-year-old hiker—Fina Kiefer, a resident of Palmer in southern Alaska—”walked out of the woods as they were driving by on Knik River Road, about a mile from the trailhead,” according to a statement Wednesday evening from the Alaska Department of Public Safety (DPS).

Kiefer was found with injuries and transported to a Matanuska-Susitna area hospital for evaluation, the statement said.

It is unknown what injuries the hiker had as well as how many bears, and of which type, were involved in the attack.

Newsweek has contacted Alaska State Troopers for further comment.

The search for Kiefer first began on June 15 after AST were notified that a lone hiker on the trail was in need of help.

The DPS stated Tuesday: “An adult female hiker had contacted her husband asking for help after being charged by multiple bears and discharging bear spray.

“Shortly after requesting assistance, the hiker stopped responding to phone calls and text messages,” the DPS said Tuesday.

According to Alaska’s Anchorage Daily News, in a statement Wednesday, Master Sgt. Evan Budd, superintendent of the Alaska Rescue Coordination Center and a member of the Alaska Air National Guard, said the hiker was “chased off the trail by the bears and couldn’t find it again.

“She had waterproof matches and was able to start a fire last night,” Budd added.

Several local authorities were deployed to assist in the search, including volunteers from the Alaska Mountain Rescue Group, Anchorage Nordic Ski Patrol, Alaska Solstice Search Dogs and MATSAR (Matanuska-Susitna Search and Rescue). They conducted ground searches through around 10:30 p.m. local time on Tuesday.

The Alaska Air National Guard carried out aerial searches through the night on Tuesday, assisted by the Alaska Army National Guard, the DPS said.

Budd said the hiker could see the helicopters but the rescue teams couldn’t spot her.

Noting the dense vegetation in the area, Budd said: “It’s easy to see and hear an aircraft in the sky, but [it] can be very challenging to spot a person at night under canopy.”

The hiker was reported to be found at around 5:30 p.m. local time Wednesday, about an hour after it was announced that search efforts had ended that day “due to deteriorating weather in the area,” the DPS said.

The Alaska Department of Fish and Game says: “It is not uncommon for residents or visitors to Alaska to see bears, usually from a safe distance. But even if you don’t see a bear, you will never be far from one; Alaska is bear country.

“If you encounter a bear, how you behave often dictates the outcome of the encounter” and “aggressive bear encounters are rare,” it adds.

The department advises: “If you see a bear, avoid it and give the bear every opportunity to avoid you. If you do encounter a bear, remain calm and try to observe what the bear is doing.

“Chances are good you are not in danger. Most bears are interested only in protecting food, cubs or their ‘personal space.’ Once they feel there is no threat, they will move on,” the department explains.

A brown bear seen in a field at Katmai National Park in King Salmon, Alaska in August 2020. A female hiker on Alaska’s Pioneer Ridge Trail who went missing after being “charged by multiple bears” was found alive.
Abbie Parr/Getty Images

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