Timothy Treadwell

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Timothy Treadwell (born Timothy Dexter, April 29, 1957 – October 5, 2003) was an American bear enthusiast, environmentalist, amateur naturalist and documentary film maker. He lived among the coastal Grizzly bears of Katmai National Park in Alaska, USA, for approximately 13 seasons. At the end of his 13th season in the park in 2003, he and his girlfriend Amie Huguenard were killed and partially devoured by one or possibly two grizzly bears.[1] Treadwell's life, work and death were the subject of the 2005 documentary film by Werner Herzog titled Grizzly Man.[2] An audio recording of the attack survived, but has not been released to the public.[3]


[edit] Early life and career

Treadwell was born on Long Island, New York, USA, where he attended Connetquot High School and was an average student who was the swimming team's star diver. He claimed to the public however that he was a British orphan who was born in Australia. Treadwell described himself as an aspiring actor, recovering alcoholic and drug addict and eco-warrior. According to his account, he became involved with drugs after failing to gain the role won by Woody Harrelson in the sitcom Cheers. Treadwell's claim to his parents that he was the second choice for the role has not been independently verified. (Associated Press, 2003)

[edit] Interest in bears

Timothy Treadwell lived among grizzly bears during summer seasons for over 13 years. According to his book, Among Grizzlies: Living with Wild Bears in Alaska, Treadwell overdosed on heroin and cocaine in the late 1980s. After his release from the hospital, and at the urging of a friend, he traveled to Alaska to watch bears. Treadwell attributed his recovery from drug and alcohol addictions entirely to his relationship with bears. Timothy spent the early part of each season camping on the "Big Green," an open area of bear grass in Hallo Bay on the Katmai Coast. During the later part of the season he would move to Kaflia Bay and camp in an area of especially thick brush he called the "Grizzly Maze." Here the chances of crossing paths with grizzlies were much higher, since the location intersected bear trails. Treadwell was known for getting extremely close to the bears he observed, sometimes even touching them and playing with bear cubs. National Park Service Rangers said what he was really doing was harassing wildlife. Treadwell recorded over 100 hours of video footage (some of which was later used to create the documentary Grizzly Man) and a large collection of still photographs.

Treadwell claimed to be alone with the wildlife on several occasions in his videos. However his girlfriend Amie was with him at the time of his death and the documentary on him indicated she was there for his final two summers. Furthurmore there was evidence that far from being the lone human warrior in the face of nature nature, that Treadwell had several girlfriends during his time there and was perhaps rarely on his own.

By 2001, Treadwell became notable enough to receive extensive media attention both on television and in environmental circles. He frequently made public appearances as an environmental activist. He traveled throughout the United States to educate school children about bears and appeared on the Discovery Channel, the Late Show with David Letterman, and Dateline NBC to discuss his experiences. He was also a co-author, with Jewel Palovak, of the book Among Grizzlies: Living with Wild Bears in Alaska, in which he described his adventures on the Alaska Peninsula.

Treadwell, along with his friends Palovak and former American Gladiator Jonathan Byrne, founded Grizzly People, a grassroots organization devoted to protecting bears and preserving their wilderness habitat.[4]

Charlie Russell, who has studied bears for 42 years and raised them and lived with them in Kamchatka, Russia for a decade, wrote a lengthy response in which he criticized both Treadwell's lack of basic safety precautions such as pepper spray and electric fences (but not his close contact with bears) as well as the predictable, knee-jerk reaction to his death. He is also critical of the film Grizzly Man.[5]

According to the organization Treadwell founded, Grizzly People, five bears were poached in the year following his death, while none had been poached while he was present in Katmai. However, according to court records as reported by the Anchorage Daily News [1] the guilty parties were charged with poaching wildlife along Funnel Creek in the Preserve, an area open to hunting that borders the National Park. According to several sources including Nick Jans' book, The Grizzly Maze,[6] Treadwell only camped near the Katmai Coast, mainly in areas around Hallo Bay and Kaflia Bay, and never in or near the Preserve. The only effective way to patrol all 6,000 square miles (16,000 km2) of Katmai National Park is by airplane which is the method used by authorities to control poaching.

[edit] Conflicts with the National Park Service

Treadwell's years with the grizzlies weren't without disruption. Almost from the start, the National Park Service expressed their worries about his behavior. According to the file kept on Treadwell by the Park Service, rangers reported he had at least six violations from 1994 to 2003. Included among these violations are: guiding tourists without a license, camping in the same area longer than the Parks Service's seven-day limit, improper food storage, wildlife harassment, and conflicts with visitors and their guides. He also frustrated authorities by refusing to install an electric fence around his camp and refusing to carry bear spray to use as a deterrent.

  • In 1998, park rangers issued Treadwell a citation for storing an ice chest filled with food in his tent.
  • A separate incident involved rangers ordering him to remove a prohibited portable generator.
  • When the Park Service imposed a new rule — often referred to as the "Treadwell Rule" — requiring all campers to move their camps at least one mile (1.6 km) every seven days, Tim initially tried to obey the order by using a small motor boat to move his camp up and down the coast. Finding this method impractical, he later hid his camp from the Park Service in stands of trees with heavy brush. Eventually, he was cited at least once for this violation.

[edit] Death

In October 2003, Treadwell and his girlfriend, a physician's assistant, Amie Huguenard, visited Katmai National Park in Alaska. In the film Grizzly Man, Werner Herzog states that Amie has a fear of bears and felt deeply uncomfortable in their presence. Treadwell chose to set his campsite near a salmon stream where grizzlies commonly feed in the fall. Treadwell was in the park later in the year than usual[7], at a time when bears fight to gain as much fat as possible before winter and limited food supplies cause them to be more aggressive than in other months. Food was scarce that fall, so the grizzly bears were even more aggressive than usual.[8]

Treadwell was supposed to leave the park at his usual time of year, but he had a disagreement with the airline about his ticket and decided to stay longer in the park. The bears he had been used to during the summer had already gone into hibernation, and bears that Treadwell did not know from other parts of the park were moving into the area. The very last footage that shows Treadwell alive also shows a bear behind him; the bear had been diving into the river over and over for a piece of dead salmon. Treadwell mentions in the footage that he does not feel altogether comfortable with that bear.

Around noon on Sunday, October 5, 2003, Treadwell spoke with an associate in Malibu, California by satellite phone. Treadwell mentioned no problems with any bears. The next day, October 6, the bodies of Treadwell and Huguenard were discovered by Willy Fulton, the Kodiak air taxi pilot who arrived at their campsite to pick them up. Treadwell's disfigured head, partial backbone, and right forearm/hand still wearing his wrist watch were recovered at the scene. Huguenard's partial remains were found near the encampment, somewhat buried in a mound of twigs and dirt. A large male grizzly (tagged Bear 141) protecting the campsite was killed by park rangers while they attempted to retrieve the bodies. A second adolescent bear was killed a short time later after it charged the park rangers. A necropsy revealed human body parts such as fingers and limbs. It is not clear from any evidence or the audio recording if either of these two bears killed the couple. In the 85-year history of Katmai National Park, this was the first incident of a person being killed by a bear.[1]

A video camera was recovered at the site. According to Alaska State Trooper spokesman Greg Wilkinson, no pictures were found on the tape. This fact led troopers to believe the attack might have happened while the camera was stuffed in a duffel bag or during the dark of night. The camera had been turned on at some point before the attack, presumably by Huguenard, but the camera recorded only six minutes of audio before running out of tape. The tape is now the property of Jewel Palovak and has not been released to the public. In the documentary Grizzly Man, filmmaker Werner Herzog urged Palovak to destroy the recording.

[edit] Media attention

  • In 2004, news sites reported that Leonardo DiCaprio's production company, Appian Way, had teamed with Columbia Pictures to develop a film titled The Man Who Loved Grizzlies, covering the life and death story of Treadwell. The film was to be scripted by Ned Zeman, based on his Vanity Fair article, and DiCaprio was expected to play the role of Treadwell.[9]
  • In 2005, director Werner Herzog made Grizzly Man, a documentary about Treadwell's work with wildlife in Alaska. Released theatrically by Lions Gate Films, it later was telecast on the Discovery Channel. Treadwell's own footage is featured, along with interviews with people who knew him. Although Herzog praises Treadwell's video footage and photographs, he states his belief that Treadwell himself was a disturbed individual with a deathwish.
  • The Grizzly Man Diaries is an eight-episode mini-series that premiered on August 22, 2008 on Animal Planet and is a spin-off of Grizzly Man. Produced by Creative Differences, the series chronicles the last ten years of Treadwell's life with diary entries and archived footage.

[edit] See also

[edit] Literature

  • Treadwell, Timothy and Palovak, Jewel. Among Grizzlies: Living With Wild Bears in Alaska. HarperCollins, 1997. ISBN 0-06-017393-9
  • Lapinski, Mike. Death in the Grizzly Maze: The Timothy Treadwell Story. Falcon, 2005. ISBN 0-7627-3677-1

[edit] References

  1. ^ a b Sanders, Kevin (2006). "Night of the Grizzly, A True Story Of Love And Death In The Wilderness". Yellowstone Outdoor Adventures. http://www.yellowstone-bearman.com/Tim_Jamal.html. Retrieved on January 8. [dead link]
  2. ^ Grizzly Man (DVD). Directed by Werner Herzog. Lions Gate, 2005.
  3. ^ Grizzly Man (DVD). Directed by Werner Herzog. Lions Gate, 2005.
  4. ^ Grizzly People
  5. ^ Criticism of the film "Grizzly Man": Cloudline.org website. Retrieved on January 20, 2008.
  6. ^ Jans, Nick. The Grizzly Maze: Timothy Treadwell's Fatal Obsession with Alaskan Bears, New York, N.Y.: Penguin Group, 2005. ISBN 0-5259488-6-4.
  7. ^ Grizzly Man (DVD). Directed by Werner Herzog. Lions Gate, 2005.
  8. ^ Jans, Nick (2005). The Grizzly Obsession. City: Dutton Adult. ISBN 0525948864. 
  9. ^ Papamichael, Stella (June 15, 2004). "High Noon - 15th June 2004 - DiCaprio Bears All". BBC. http://www.bbc.co.uk/films/2004/06/15/high_noon_june_15_2004_news_article.shtml. Retrieved on January 8. 

Dewberry, Eric ; Conceiving Grizzly Man through the "Powers of the False"; 2008 Associated Press: Grizzly mauls, kills a bear 'expert' Alaska attack also takes life of female companion in park: 2003

  • Conesa-Sevilla, J. (2008). Walking With Bears: An Ecopsychological Study of Timothy (Dexter) Treadwell. The Trumpeter, 24, 1, 136-150.

[edit] External links

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