A man survived a sleepless showdown with a grizzly bear at his remote mining camp in Alaska, where the beast injured him and then relentlessly harassed him each night for several days in hopes of finishing him off.
The unidentified man, who is in his late 50s or early 60s, suffered a leg injury and a bruised torso from his fight with the bear, according to the U.S. Coast Guard helicopter crew who saved him.
The Coast Guard officers spotted a “HELP ME” message scrawled on the roof of the man’s small mining shack on July 16, in a chance helicopter flyover during an unrelated mission.
“We don’t really come across people in the middle of nowhere,” Lt. A.J. Hammac told the New York Times. “He was kind of struggling. When we came around, he was on his hands and knees waving a white flag.”
They set the helicopter down and discovered that the man was injured, sleep-deprived and running out of ammunition to defend himself against the bear.
“He had a pistol,” said helicopter pilot Lt. Cmdr. Jared Carbajal. “He said that the bear kept coming back every night and he hadn’t slept in a few days.”
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The man had wrapped tape around his leg wound and appeared to be coming off an adrenaline high from his battle with the bear, the officers told the Times.
He had been alone at the shack outside Nome, Alaska, since July 12, working on a small mining claim in an area with no cell reception.
“His friends had reported him overdue after he hadn’t returned to Nome,” the Coast Guard said in a news release.
The helicopter crew found evidence of the struggle at the camp, including a loose door that had been torn off the shack.
“At some point, a bear had dragged him down to the river,” Carbajal told the paper.
The man only had two rounds left in his pistol and likely would not have survived much longer without the rescue, according to Petty Officer First Class Ali Blackburn, a spokesperson for the Coast Guard.
“I’d imagine you’d be a little loopy after not sleeping for so long,” she told the Times.
The victim was taken to hospital and treated for his injuries.