Hiker calls for help after being chased by bears — then vanishes, Alaska officials say

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When bears started charging toward Fina Kiefer, she called her husband for help.

The 55-year-old told him multiple bears were charging her on the Pioneer Ridge hiking trail in Alaska, and she had to use bear spray to deter them.

Then she vanished.

“Shortly after requesting assistance, the hiker stopped responding to phone calls and text messages,” the Alaska Department of Public Safety said in a news release. “Alaska State Troopers responded to the trailhead and conducted a hasty search of the first section of the trail with no results.”

Officials began a search Tuesday about 1:30 a.m. Once the morning came, they sent out an aerial search and rescue team, along with volunteers to search the ground.

They searched all day and into the night Tuesday with no sign of Kiefer, the department of public safety said.

“No evidence of the missing hiker has been discovered,” officials said at the end of the day Tuesday. “Search efforts are ending for the day due to deteriorating weather in the area.”

The search continued the next day. Around 5:30 p.m., a search volunteer who was driving on Knik River Road spotted Kiefer walking out of the woods.

She was about a mile from the trailhead, officials said. Kiefer was injured and taken to the hospital for medical care. The severity and nature of her injuries were not revealed.

Master Sgt. Evan Budd, superintendent of the Alaska Rescue Coordination Center, told the Anchorage Daily News that Kiefer had waterproof matches and started a fire overnight.

“Being prepared for the unexpected is critical in the Alaskan outdoors,” Budd told the news outlet. “What you plan as a day hike can quickly turn into a multi-day ordeal.”

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