Missing Newport Beach hiker found dead in Sequoia National Park

NEWPORT BEACH — A 43-year-old Newport Beach man who was reported missing last month was found dead in Sequoia National Park east of Visalia, authorities announced Monday.

Matthew Thoke was last seen at about 1 p.m. on July 21 on the park’s High Sierra Trail, according to a statement from a National Parks Service official.

Thoke broke from his group as they were hiking towards the Crescent Meadow Trail and went south downhill without his pack.

Search efforts began the same day, but were ultimately scaled back on Aug. 2. Thoke’s family recruited search teams to continue the efforts in coordination with National Park Service incident managers.

Thoke’s body was discovered on Saturday in an area of the park “that was not visible by air and hardly visible on the ground, not far from where he was last seen, in technical terrain,” the statement said.

National Park Service rangers recovered his body Sunday.

It was not immediately clear how Thoke died. Further details about the death were not able to be shared, according to a tweet from the account of Sequoia and Kings Canyon National Parks.

“We are saddened by this conclusion but are grateful for all the agencies, organizations, friends and family who worked on this effort,” said Sequoia and Kings Canyon National Parks Superintendent Clay Jordan.

“It often takes a village to bring things to a close. We ask that the public and press continue to respect the family’s privacy in this extremely difficult time.”

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A look at our local raptors for backyard bird count weekend


The 22nd annual Great Backyard Bird Count is underway and continues through Monday. To celebrate, we take a look at a few of the more prestigious raptors of California that have come dangerously close to extinction that you might find in your own backyard.


Bald eagle

The bald eagle has been the national emblem of the United States since 1782 and a spiritual symbol for Native Americans. In the late 1960s and early 1970s, the bald eagle was close to extinction in the lower 48 states with fewer than 30 nesting pairs in California, largely due to the use of pesticides. It has made a remarkable comeback with surveys showing that the state’s winter population exceeds 1,000.

eagle map


golden eagle face

Golden eagles are found throughout North America, but are more common in western North America. Little is known about the eagle abundance, but it is thought that numbers may be declining in some, if not all, parts of their range. Golden eagle abundance in California is unknown.

golden eagle map


falcon face

The peregrine falcon is the fastest bird in the world, capable of reaching 150 to 200 mph in their dives when chasing prey. They were virtually eradicated from eastern North America by pesticide poisoning in the middle 20th century but have made an incredible recovery and are regularly seen in large cities and coastal areas.


white tailed kite

The white-tailed kite earns its name for the way it resembles a kite in flight. With its body turned toward the wind and wings gently flapping, it hovers above the ground like a kite. The white-tailed kite was rendered almost extinct in California in the 1930s and 1940s due to shooting and egg-collecting, but they are now common again. Although their distribution is patchy, they can be found in the Central Valley and southern coastal areas.

kite map


Barn owl face

While great stretches of the United States, from New York to Iowa, have seen a decline in barn owls since the 1950s, California maintains surprisingly robust populations due to the abundance of open space of natural grasslands and agricultural fields, where rodent populations increase significantly.

barn owl face


Great Backyard Bird Count participants are asked to count birds for a minimum of 15 minutes on one or more days this weekend and report sightings online at birdcount.org.

You can see what birds are regularly in your area with eBird species maps.


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