Alaska hiker reported missing after bear encounter found alive

A hiker in Alaska who had been missing since reporting being charged by bears more than a day ago was found alive Wednesday.

A search was launched for the Fina Kiefer, 55, who was alone on the Pioneer Ridge Trail early Tuesday after she contacted her husband and told him she’d been charged by multiple bears and used bear spray, Alaska State Troopers said.

Teams with dogs looked for her on the ground, and the Alaska Air National Guard looked from the air, officials said.

Wednesday evening, after state troopers said search efforts for the day were ending because of weather, a volunteer leaving the area saw Kiefer leaving the woods near the road, state troopers spokesperson Austin McDaniel said.

She was hurt and was taken to a hospital, but the injuries were not from a bear but from a fall , McDaniel said.

“She was chased off the trail by bears and couldn’t find it again,” Alaska Air National Guard Senior Master Sgt. Evan Budd, superintendent of the Alaska Rescue Coordination Center, said in a statement Thursday.

McDaniel said that it is believed more than one bear was involved, and searchers saw multiple bears from the air and signs of them on the ground.

State troopers were notified about the hiker’s request for help and the reported bear charging incident around 1:30 a.m. Tuesday. After Kiefer asked for help, attempts to reach her by phone and text were unsuccessful, troopers said.

The trail is in the Matanuska-Susitna Borough, northeast of Anchorage, on the north slope of Pioneer Peak. The ridge trail rises around 5,300 feet, and from there, hikers can try for the summit, according to the borough’s website.

Bill Laxson, a member of the Alaska Mountain Rescue Group who was coordinating the search, had previously told NBC affiliate KTUU of Anchorage that the area is very challenging.

Kiefer was spotted walking out of the woods as the volunteer search team member was driving on Knik River Road, about a mile from the trailhead, state troopers said.

The volunteer reported the discovery at 5:30 p.m., around an hour after state troopers said the decision was made to end searches for the day because of the weather. At the time, officials planned to assess further search efforts Thursday morning.


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