A man in the Alaska wilderness was sleep-deprived and nearly out of ammunition after having to fight off a grizzly bear every night for several days by the time a Coast Guard crew flying over the area spotted him waving his arms in distress and his SOS sign.
The crew was flying to Nome for a mission to help a team of scientists search the Alaskan coastline for dead, whales, walruses and seals on Friday, when they saw the man waving both of his hands in the air.
He was standing near a shack with the words ‘SOS’ and ‘help me’ sprawled on its tin roof, the Coast Guard reports.
When they landed, they said they noticed the man had a bandage around his leg and suffered from some bruising.
That’s when, they said, the man told the crew that he was attacked by a grizzly bear a few days earlier.
He said the bear had since been returning to his shack every night.
‘At some point, a bear had dragged him down to the river,’ Lt. Commander Jared Carbajal, one of the pilots on the Coast Guard helicopter, told the New York Times.
‘He had a pistol,’ Carbajal recounted. ‘He said the bear kept coming back every night and he hadn’t slept in days.’
The man, whom Coast Guard officials did not name, had been staying in the shack in a mining camp 40 miles from Nome, since July 12.
He reportedly did not have a cellphone with him at the time.
It is unclear what the man was doing out there, but officials said his friends had reported him missing when he did not return to Nome.
DailyMail.com has reached out to Coast Guard officials for more information.
A Coast Guard crew en route to Nome, Alaska on Friday spotted a man in a remote mining camp 40 miles from the city (pictured) waving both of his arms in a plea for help
The crew was on its way to Nome, Alaska from Kotzebue when they spotted the man
The man claimed he had been terrorized by a grizzly bear, like the one seen here, who dragged him down to the river and kept coming back to his shack every night for a week
According to the New York Times, the aircrew out of Coast Guard Station Kodiak changed its route to Nome, Alaska from Kotzebue by about a mile to avoid some clouds, when one Lt. AJ Hammac saw the man stumble out of the shack – something he said he is not used to seeing in Cape Cod, Massachusetts, where he is based.
‘He said, “Hey, there’s a guy down there and he’s waving at us,'” Carbajal, who has been with the Coast Guard since 2009, recounted to the Times.
‘I said “Is he waving with one hand or two hands?”‘
When Hammac said it was both hands, Carbajal said he told his three crew members ‘Well, that’s usually a sign of distress.’
Hammac, 35, agreed, saying: ‘He was kind of struggling.
‘When we came around he was on his hands and knees waving a white flag,’ he told the Times, noting that the man’s leg was taped.
The man was airlifted to Nome in an MH-60 helicopter, like the one seen here
‘He definitely looked like he had been out there for a while.’
Authorities said the man, in his late 50s or early 60s, only had two rounds left in his pistol when they found him, and brought him onto the helicopter to airlift him to Nome, where an ambulance was waiting for him.
The man reportedly walked himself off the helicopter and onto the ambulance.
‘You could tell he was starting to come off of the adrenaline, I think and started to realize what happened,’ Carbajal said. ‘He did not want to get into the gurney.’
He added that it wound up being a good thing the crew had to change course at the last minute, saying: ‘If we would have been in the next river valley over, we totally would have missed him.’
The rescue comes just over two weeks after a Montana man was bit twice by a bear, while hiking in the Kenai National Wildlife Refuge with his dog, Buckley, on July 3.
Jason Umbriaco said a brown bear with two cubs came at him so quickly, he did not have time to pull out his bear spray.
He told the Associated Press the bear covered about 50 feet ‘in an instant.’
‘So then I held my arms up in a sort of defensive position, and then she bit me on the forearm kind of close to my elbow.’
When the bear let go, he said, he panicked and jumped in the Kenai River.
‘In almost any other circumstance, and in probably this circumstance, it was a terrible option, but that was the one I had,’ Umbriaco said.
‘And then she reaches down and then bites me on the shoulder.’
After that second attack, he said, the bear retreated with her cubs up a hill, at which point Umbriaco decided to call for help.
He was transported to a local hospital, where he was ultimately reunited with his dog, who a woman found safe after the attack.
Rick Green, a spokesman for the Alaska Department of Fish and Game, told the Times that grizzly bear attacks are common in that area, particularly during this time of the year.
A 2019 report by Alaskan health officials states that 68 people were hospitalized for injuries sustained in 66 bear attacks from 2000 to 2017, and 10 people died.
But Petty Officer Ali Blackburn, a spokeswoman for the Coast Guard in Alaska, said it is unusual for a person to have several encounters with the same bear.