The Coast Guard helicopter crew spotted the lone man waving his arms in the air in the middle of the Alaskan wilderness.
They had arrived just in time.
Had they not seen the man, or even flown over a slightly different area, he might have finally fallen prey to the grizzly bear who had been hunting him for days.
“If we would have been in the next river valley over, we would have totally missed him,” Lt. Cmdr. Jared Carbajal told the New York Times.
The unidentified man was rescued July 16 near the small city of Nome, the Coast Guard announced in a press release on Tuesday.
A few days before the rescue, he had been attacked by the bear. Then, every single night for a week, "the bear had returned to his camp and harassed him."
The crew spotted him after seeing an SOS sign atop a shack in a mining camp, and soon after saw him waving his arms, they said.
He was found with an unspecified leg injury and torso bruising, and transported to a hospital for medical treatment.
Coast Guard officials told the New York Times that the man, who was in his late 50s or early 60s, was severely sleep-deprived and almost out of ammunition.
“At some point, a bear had dragged him down to the river,” Carbajal said. “He had a pistol. He said that the bear kept coming back every night, and he hadn’t slept in a few days.”
Deadly bear attacks, while rare, have seen a marked uptick this year in North America, according to a report by Backpacker magazine.
Five people have been killed by bears so far in 2021, up from four in 2020 and two in 2019.
Just weeks ago, on July 6, a 64-year-old woman was killed by a grizzly bear in Montana.