For Adrian Knopps, 51, and Garret Hagen, 25, the dangers that come with a bear hunt did not end following a successful harvest. According to the Alaska Dispatch, Knopps was left stranded on a remote island near Ketchikan in southeast Alaska when Hagen mysteriously disappeared. Rescue personnel from the Sitka Coast Guard Air Station found Knopps starving and suffering from severe hypothermia atop a tree, which the hunter had reportedly taken refuge in to avoid wolves.
Knopps was visiting from Michigan and left for the island with Hagen on the 44-foot fishing vessel Abundance on September 14. Together the two men successfully took a bear, but that was when the trouble began. The skiff the two used to travel from the boat to the island was much too small to carry the weight of bear meat and along with the hunters. Instead, Hagen decided to tow the laden skiff with a kayak back to the Abundance. It was agreed that Knopps would wait on the island until Hagen returned.
The Michigan hunter waited on the beach and built a small fire to keep warm. The fire was kept going for two nights, but Hagen never came back. Several days later Knopps saw the Abundance drift out into the Behm Canal with no one at the helm. He could only watch on in vain; the boat was too far away to swim out to. Frustration was quickly followed by hunger. Knopps had already devoured all the readily available food he had, which mostly consisted of protein bars. The Lansing State Journal reported that Knopps procured water from a nearby stream but was eventually turned back by weather. Driven by hunger, Knopp later abandoned the shore and walked deeper into the wilderness.
Back home, Knopp’s family had little inkling that he was missing in the Alaskan wilderness. In fact, it was only after the Abundance was found drifting that authorities began to be concerned. The Coast Guard was notified of the vessel after it was sighted on Sunday. A rescue helicopter was sent to survey the surrounding area and found the hunter sitting in a tree.
“He was clinging for dear life in that tree,” Knopp’s mother, Elise Knopps, told the Lansing State Journal.
Despite more than a week in the wilderness, Knopp is expected to recover and return home within a month. The search for Hagen continues. There is little evidence to explain the hunter’s disappearance, although Hagen’s kayak has been found washed up nearby and empty. Coast Guard Lieutenant Mickey Sanders says that they still have hope that Hagan will be found alive.
“At this point, we’re not in the recovery stage, we’re still in search and rescue,” he told Juneau Empire. “We’re not leaving any stones uncovered.”
Coast Guard personnel are combing the area on foot and will be doing a sweep of nearby cabins in case Hagen took shelter within them. Knopps is expected to visit Hagen’s family when he is well.
File image courtesy U.S. Coast Guard Air Station Sitka