A man is lucky to be alive after a horrific ordeal in Alaska that's being compared to Leonardo DiCaprio's 2015 film The Revenant.
The unidentified man, who is said to be in his 50s or 60s, spent several days fighting for survival in the wilderness as a grizzly bear stalked him — but then a Coast Guard helicopter crew came to his rescue on Friday, July 16, according to a report from The New York Times.
Lt. j.g. A.J. Hammac was first to notice the man stumble out of a small shack at a mining camp 40 miles outside of Nome.
"He said, 'Hey, there's a guy down there and he's waving at us,'" Lt. Cmdr. Jared Carbajal said in an interview on Wednesday, the Times reported. "I said, 'Is he waving with one hand or two hands?'"
It was two hands — he was signaling for help.
US Coast Guard
Commander Carbajal told the newspaper that their Coast Guard MH-60 Jayhawk helicopter had changed course to avoid cloud cover on their way to a mission when the shocking discovery was made. Though Lieutenant Hammac said it was uncommon for the Coast Guard to come across people in need "in the middle of nowhere," they noticed a shack with "SOS" and "help me" written on the tin roof.
The man later told his rescuers he had been staying at the shack since Monday, July 12. In those five days, he suffered non-life-threatening injuries, including bruises and damage to his leg.
"He was kind of struggling. When we came around, he was on his hands and knees waving a white flag," Lieutenant Hammac told the Times.
"He definitely looked like he had been out there for a while," he added.
"At some point, a bear had dragged him down to the river," Commander Carbajal told the outlet. "He had a pistol. He said that the bear kept coming back every night and he hadn't slept in a few days."
Petty Officer First Class Ali Blackburn, a spokeswoman for the Coast Guard in Alaska, laid out just how dire the situation was when the helicopter crew found the man in distress.
"He only had two rounds left," she said of his ammunition to the Times. "I'd imagine you'd be a little loopy after not sleeping for so long."
Citing a 2019 report by Alaskan health officials, the Times reported that 68 people in the state were hospitalized in 66 bear attacks from 2000 to 2017. Ten people died from bear attacks during that period.
USA Today noted that all three species of North American bears — including black, brown and polar bears — live in Alaska.
"It is not uncommon for residents or visitors to Alaska to see bears, usually from a safe distance," reads the Alaska Department of Fish and Games website. "But even if you don't see a bear, you will never be far from one; Alaska is bear country."