Timothy Treadwell, 10-05-03
Wildlife author killed, eaten by bears he loved
By CRAIG MEDRED, Anchorage Daily News
KATMAI: Many had warned Treadwell that his encounters with browns were too close.
Published: October 8, 2003
A California author and filmmaker who became famous for trekking to Alaska's remote
Katmai coast to commune with brown bears has fallen victim to the teeth and claws
of the wild animals he loved.
Alaska State Troopers and National Park Service officials said Timothy Treadwell,
46, and girlfriend Amie Huguenard, 37, were killed and partially eaten by a bear
or bears near Kaflia Bay, about 300 miles southwest of Anchorage, earlier this week.
Scientists who study Alaska brown bears said they had been warning Treadwell for
years that he needed to be more careful around the huge and powerful coastal twin
of the grizzly.
Treadwell's films of close-up encounters with giant bears brought him a bounty of
national media attention. The fearless former drug addict from Malibu, Calif. --
who routinely eased up close to bears to chant "I love you'' in a high-pitched,
sing-song voice -- was the subject of a show on the Discovery Channel and a report
on "Dateline NBC." Blond, good-looking and charismatic, he appeared for interviews
on David Letterman's show and "The Rosie O'Donnell Show" to talk about his bears.
He even gave them names: Booble, Aunt Melissa, Mr. Chocolate, Freckles and Molly,
A self-proclaimed eco-warrior, he attracted something of a cult following too. Chuck
Bartlebaugh of "Be Bear Aware,'' a national bear awareness campaign, called Treadwell
one of the leaders of a group of people engaged in "a trend to promote getting close
to bears to show they were not dangerous.
"He kept insisting that he wanted to show that bears in thick brush aren't dangerous.
The last two people killed (by bears) in Glacier National Park went off the trail
into the brush. They said their goal was to find a grizzly bear so they could 'do
a Timothy.' We have a trail of dead people and dead bears because of this trend
that says, 'Let's show it's not dangerous.' ''
But even Treadwell knew that getting close with brown bears in thick cover was indeed
dangerous. In his 1997 book "Among Grizzlies,'' he wrote of a chilling encounter
with a bear in the alder thickets that surround Kaflia Lake along the outer coast
of Katmai National Park and Preserve.
"This was Demon, who some experts label the '25th Grizzly,' the one that tolerates
no man or bear, the one that kills without bias,'' Treadwell wrote. "I had thought
Demon was going to kill me in the Grizzly Maze.''
Treadwell survived and kept coming back to the area. He would spend three to four
months a summer along the Katmai coast, filming, watching and talking to the bears.
"I met him during the summer of '98 at Hallo Bay,'' said Stephen Stringham, a professor
with the University of Alaska system. "At first, having read his book, I thought
he was fairly foolhardy ... (but) he was more careful than the book portrayed.
"He wasn't naive. He knew there was danger."
Despite that, Treadwell refused to carry firearms or ring his campsites with an
electric fence as do bear researchers in the area. And he stopped carrying bear
spray for self-protection in recent years. Friends said he thought he knew the bears
so well he didn't need it.
U.S. Geological Survey bear researcher Tom Smith; Sterling Miller, formerly the
Alaska Department of Fish and Game's top bear authority; and others said they tried
to warn the amateur naturalist that he was being far too cavalier around North America's
largest and most powerful predator.
"He's the only one I've consistently had concern for,'' Smith said. "He had kind
of a childlike attitude about him.''
"I told him to be much more cautious ... because every time a bear kills somebody,
there is a big increase in bearanoia and bears get killed,'' Miller said. "I thought
that would be a way of getting to him, and his response was 'I would be honored
to end up in bear scat.' ''
A number of other people said that over the years Treadwell made similar comments
to them, implying that he would prefer to die as part of a bear's meal. All said
they found the comments troubling, because bears that attack people so often end
RANGERS RETRIEVE REMAINS
Katmai park rangers who went Monday to retrieve the remains of Treadwell and Huguenard
-- both of whom were largely eaten -- ended up killing two bears near the couple's
Katmai superintendent Deb Liggett said she was deeply troubled by the whole episode.
"The last time I saw Timothy, I told him to be safe out there and that none of my
staff would ever forgive him if they had to kill a bear because of him,'' she said.
"I kind of had a heart-to-heart with him. I told him he was teaching the wrong message.
"This is unfortunate, (but) I'm not surprised. It really wasn't a matter of if;
it was just a matter of when.''
What led up to the latest Alaska bear attack, as well as exactly when it happened,
is unknown. The bodies of Treadwell and Huguenard, a physician's assistant from
Boulder, Colo., were discovered Monday by the pilot of a Kodiak air taxi who arrived
at their wilderness camp to take them back to civilization. A bear had buried the
remains of both in what is known as a "food cache.''
The couple's tent was flattened as if a bear sat or stepped on it, but it had not
been ripped open, even though food was inside. The condition of the tent led most
knowledgeable observers to conclude the attack probably took place during the daylight
hours when Treadwell and Huguenard were outside the tent, instead of at night when
they would have been inside. Most of their food was found in bear-proof containers
near the camp.
Officials said the camp was clean but located close to a number of bear trails.
Because of the concentration of bears in the Kaflia Lake area and a shortage of
good campsites, however, it is almost impossible to camp anywhere but along a bear
EXTENDED THEIR STAY
Treadwell and Huguenard, who was in the process of moving from Colorado to Malibu
to live with Treadwell, had last been heard from Sunday afternoon when they used
a satellite phone to talk to Jewel Palovak. Palovak is a Malibu associate of Treadwell
at Grizzly People, which bills itself as "a grass-roots organization devoted to
preserving bears and their wilderness habitat.''
Palovak said she talked with Treadwell about his favorite bear, a sow he called
Downy. Treadwell had been worried, Palovak said, that the sow might have wandered
out of the area and been killed by hunters. So instead of returning to California
at the end of September as planned, Treadwell lingered at Kaflia to look for her.
Palovak said Treadwell was excited to report finding the animal alive.
PILOT CALLS IN TRAGEDY
What transpired in the hours after the phone call is unknown. The Kodiak pilot who
arrived at the Treadwell camp the next day was met by a charging brown bear. The
bear forced the pilot for Andrew Airways back to his floatplane.
Authorities said he took off and buzzed the bear several times in an effort to drive
it out of the area, but it would not leave the campsite established by Treadwell
and Huguenard. When the pilot spotted the bear apparently sitting on the remains
of a human, authorities said, he flew back to the lake, landed, beached his plane
some distance from the camp and called for help from troopers and the Park Service.
Interviews with sources who were on the scene provided this account:
Park rangers were the first to arrive. They hiked from the beach toward a knob above
the camp hoping to be able to survey the scene from a distance. They had no sooner
reached the top of the knob, however, than they were charged by a large brown bear.
It was shot and killed at a distance of about 12 feet. The Andrew Air pilot, according
to Bruce Bartley of the Alaska Department of Fish and Game, was convinced the large
boar with the ratty hide was the same animal he'd tried to buzz out of the campsite.
The boar was described as an underweight, old male with rotting teeth.
Authorities do not know if it was the bear that killed Treadwell and Huguenard.
They were to fly to the site on Tuesday to search the animal's stomach for human
remains but were prevented from doing so by bad weather.
After shooting that bear, rangers and troopers who had by then arrived walked down
to the campsite and undertook the task of gathering the remains of the two campers.
While they were there, another large boar grizzly went through the campsite but
largely ignored the humans.
A smaller, subadult that appeared later, however, seemed to be stalking the group.
Rangers and troopers shot and killed it.
"It would have killed Timothy to know that they killed the bears,'' Palovak said,
"but there was no choice in the matter."
"He was very clear that he didn't want any retaliation against a bear,'' added Roland
Dixon, a wealthy bear fan who lives on a ranch outside of Fort Collins, Colo., and
has been one of Treadwell's main benefactors for the past six or seven years. "He
was really adamant that he didn't want any bear to suffer from any mistake that
he made. His attitude was that if something like this were to happen, it would probably
be his fault.''
Bartlebaugh of "Be Bear Aware'' has no doubts that Treadwell loved the animals but
believes the love was misguided.
"I'm an avid bear enthusiast,'' Bartlebaugh said. "It's the same attitude that I
think Timothy had, but I don't want them (the bears) to be my friends. I don't want
to have a close, loving relationship. I want to be in awe of them as wild animals.''
Palovak, Treadwell's associate, and Dixon take a different view.
"I think (Timothy) would say it's the culmination of his life's work,'' Palovak
said. "He always knew that he was the bear's guest and that they could terminate
his stay at any time. He lived with the full knowledge of that. He died doing what
he lived for.''
"He was kind of a goofy guy,'' Dixon said. "It took me a while to get in tune with
him. His whole life was dedicated to being with the bears, or teaching young people
about them. That's all he ever did. It was always about the bears. It was never
about Timothy. He had a passion and he lived his passion. There will be no one to
replace him. There's just nobody in the bear world who studies bears like Timothy
Dixon acknowledged Treadwell took risks with bears but dismissed as envious those
who criticized his behavior .
Daily News reporter Elizabeth Manning contributed to this story. Daily News Outdoors
editor Craig Medred can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
TIMOTHY TREADWELL'S Web site, with photos of Alaska bears, is at
Treadwell: 'Get out here. I'm getting killed'
By CRAIG MEDRED, Anchorage Daily News
MAULING: Sound of bear attack that killed two was captured by video camera.
Published: October 9, 2003
Among the last words Timothy Treadwell uttered to his girlfriend before a bear killed
and partially ate both of them were these:
"Get out here. I'm getting killed.''
Words caught on a tape recording of the attack also reveal Treadwell's girlfriend,
Amie Huguenard, shouting at him to play dead, then encouraging him to fight back.
Alaska State Troopers report that is what they heard on a videotape recovered Monday
at the scene of a bear mauling in Katmai National Park and Preserve. The tape was
in a camera found near the bear-buried remains of Treadwell, 46, and Huguenard,
Troopers spokesman Greg Wilkinson said there are no pictures on the tape, leading
troopers to believe the attack might have happened while the camera was stuffed
in a duffle bag or during the dark of night. Treadwell had talked to an associate
in Malibu, Calif., by satellite phone around noon Sunday. He mentioned no problems
with any bears.
The remains of the Southern Californians who periodically came to Alaska to live
intimately with the bears were found the next day. A large but scrawny old bear
with bad teeth that a pilot had seen sitting on the brush and dirt pulled over the
bodies was shot and killed by National Park Service rangers at the scene after it
Troopers Wednesday refused requests to release the audiotape, but said it convinced
them the two people had been killed by a bear. Speculation about whether a bear
had actually done the killing had been fueled by Treadwell's oft-stated but unsubstantiated
claim that he spent summers at Katmai to protect the bears from poachers and sport
"I'm their lifeguard,'' he told a reporter for The Davis (Calif.) Enterprise in
1999. "I'm there to keep the poachers and sport hunters away. I'm much more likely
to be killed by an angry sport hunter than a bear.''
The Kaflia Bay area of Alaska's Gulf Coast -- where Treadwell spent most of his
time in the state -- has long been closed to sport hunters, and Katmai rangers said
there is no history of poachers killing bears in the area.
When bears die, they are usually killed by other brown bears, said park superintendent
Deb Liggett, noting that 90 percent of the cubs each year are killed, and often
eaten, by other brown bears. Adult bears sometimes kill each other there, too.
In this case, Wilkinson said, troopers are confident a bear was also responsible
for killing the Malibu couple. Troopers are also convinced, he added, that the bear
seen feeding on their bodies was the bear killed by Park Service rangers. There
is no way, however, of knowing whether that bear or another shot by troopers at
the scene did the actual killing.
The tape full of screams and rustling sounds details the attack, Wilkinson said,
but adds little to explain exactly what happened or why. The tape, he said, lasts
about three minutes. Scratching and dragging noises on it have led troopers to believe
Treadwell might have been wearing a body mike when the attack began.
After Treadwell calls for help, Wilkinson said, Huguenard can be heard shouting
"play dead.'' That is the recommended response to being grabbed by a brown or grizzly
bear, but authorities stress the idea of playing dead should be abandoned if the
bear continues to press the attack.
On the tape, shortly after the warning to "play dead,'' Wilkinson said, "Huguenard
is heard to scream "fight back.'' Treadwell later yells "hit him with a pan,'' Wilkinson
After that, the tape goes dead. Because there are no pictures, troopers believe
it is most likely the bear came in the night. The tent in which Treadwell and Huguenard
had been camping showed no signs of being ripped open by a bear trying to attack
people inside, but a friend of Treadwell's said it was common for him to leave the
tent in the dark to confront bears that approached his camp.
"His way of operating was to get out of the tent immediately when he heard a bear
around,'' Juneau filmmaker Joel Bennett said Wednesday. "He subscribed to the theory
that the worst thing you could do was stay in the tent."
Bennett knew the flamboyant Treadwell well. Only two weeks before Treadwell's death
they had spent weeks on Kodiak Island working on a Disney film about bears.
"You probably know that I've done three full-length films with him,'' Bennett said.
"There's no question he had a remarkable repertoire with bears and had a remarkable
ability for them to tolerate him ... (but) just so people don't get the wrong idea,
Tim definitely knew there were bears out there that were bad medicine.
"This incident sounds to me like it had nothing to do with his work during the day
to look at bears or photograph bears. It was a campsite situation.''
Dozens of scientists, bear guides and outdoor authorities who have spent their lives
around Alaska's bruins have criticized Treadwell's daytime activities. The Californian
had a seemingly overwhelming need to get close to bears.
"He was a strange dude,'' said Joe Darminio, a former guide at the Newhalen Lodge
who used to take bear-viewing tourists to meet Treadwell. Many of the tourists,
Darminio added, recognized Treadwell from television or his book, "Among Grizzlies
-- Living with Wild Bears in Alaska.''
Opinions among the tourists were split on whether Treadwell's bear-stalking antics
were crazy, but Darminio said there was agreement the blond Californian in the black
Carhartt's with the bandana tied around his head like a pirate was entertaining.
It was hard to avoid being shocked or impressed by the fearless way he eased up
to within feet of some of the most powerful predators on the continent. Treadwell
said he could calm them by talking in his high-pitched sing-song voice and tell
from their body language whether they posed any threat.
"He really was a Dian Fossey in that way,'' Bennett said. "She could have been killed
by one swipe of a gorilla at any time. Dian Fossey got close to the gorillas. She
touched them. Timmy did not encourage other people to do this. He says over and
over in his films, 'Do not do this. Do not copy me.' It's obviously not something
people should do, but it's something that he did."
Huguenard was exposed to Treadwell's daring antics at a grizzly bear presentation
in Boulder, Colo. A graduate of the University of Alabama at Birmingham School of
Medicine with a degree in molecular biology from the University of Colorado in Boulder,
she knew trying to get close to brown bears was dangerous, but went along with Treadwell
"It was part of her life,'' sister Kathie Stowell told The Times' newspaper in their
old hometown of Valparaiso, Ind. "They had a passion and that overrode everything.
"She definitely died, according to her, in the most beautiful, pristine place on
Reporter Elizabeth Manning contributed to this story. Daily News outdoor editor
Craig Medred can be reached at email@example.com.
believes errors led to attack
BEARS: Californians' choices may have contributed to fatal encounter.
By CRAIG MEDRED
Anchorage Daily News
(Published: October 10, 2003)
Human remains and clothing found in the stomach of a 28-year-old brown bear killed
by National Park Service rangers Monday have confirmed that the animal fed on the
bodies of California animal activist Timothy Treadwell and girlfriend Amie Huguenard,
authorities reported Thursday.
Fresh details about the attack near Kaflia Bay in Katmai National Park on Alaska's
southwest coast also began to emerge.
According to a memo from Alaska Department of Fish and Game biologist Larry Van
Daele, Treadwell set up his bear-viewing camp "in such a way that bears wishing
to traverse the area would have had to either wade in the lake or walk right next
to the tent. A person could not have designed a more dangerous location to set up
In videos found at the scene, Van Daele said, Treadwell described "his campsite
as (in) a potentially dangerous location, but he expresses his confidence that he
understands these bears and they will not harm him.''
On Wednesday, Fish and Game dispatched Van Daele -- author of a book on the history
of the brown bears on Kodiak Island and an authority on the half-ton coastal cousins
of the grizzly bear -- to Kaflia to investigate what is believed to be the first
deadly bear attack in Katmai park history.
"What caused this individual bear to kill and eat humans is unknown,'' Van Daele
concluded. "It was very old but not in remarkably poor condition.''
Most likely, the biologist said, there was a chance encounter between the people
and the bear that resulted in the bear attacking and the situation worsening from
there. Though authorities who arrived on scene Wednesday found two bears competing
to eat the carcass of an adolescent bear also killed by rangers on Monday, Van Daele
stressed that he saw nothing to indicate "strange bear behavior occurring in the
Alaska brown bears commonly scavenge any mammal carcasses they find, but attacks
on humans are rare and cases of brown bears actually eating humans are so uncommon
that even calling them rare would be an overstatement.
Audubon Society biologist John Schoen and other experts on Alaska grizzly and brown
bears on Thursday pointed out that Treadwell's proclivity for trying to get close
to Alaska bears for more than a decade illustrates nothing so much as the bears'
amazing tolerance for humans. The self-proclaimed former drug addict and eco-warrior
from Malibu, Calif., regularly approached bears on his summer sojourns here, often
easing to within feet of them while talking to them in a sing-song voice.
On videotape recovered at Treadwell's camp, Van Daele said, there is more evidence
of this potentially dangerous behavior.
One "video shows Ms. Huguenard within 3 meters (10 feet) of a sow with cubs as they
fish,'' Van Daele wrote.
"One of the cubs came even closer to her while (Treadwell) filmed. She seemed uncomfortable
but did not move. Some journal entries suggest that she was not as comfortable with
the situation as he was. One of the last of his journal entries described his dismay
as a large, adult male fought with one of his (Treadwell's) favorite sows near the
Such fights among bears are not uncommon, particularly late in the year when the
bears are scrambling to put on as much fat as possible before winter. A poor berry
crop this year and tapering salmon runs would only compound the situation, said
Van Daele, who noted that the smaller brown bear killed in the area by park rangers
and Alaska State Troopers on Monday had been largely eaten by other bears by Wednesday.
Rangers, troopers and Fish and Game biologists had to drive one bear off what was
left of the carcass and shoo away another lurking in the alders nearby in order
to investigate Treadwell's camp. They literally battled their way in, firing firecracker
shells and using the whoop-whoop-whooping of a helicopter overhead to drive the
animals away and keep them away.
From what was found at the campsite in this bear-infested area, and other information,
Van Daele said he developed a theory on how Treadwell and Huguenard might have died
on Sunday night.
"We will never know exactly what happened, and it is somewhat risky to speculate,''
he warned, but in effort to lend some sense to what happened, he offered this hypothesis
based on journals, videotapes and evidence at the scene.
"The most telling piece of information is an audio recording made during the actual
bear attack. This goes on for about six minutes and starts with (Treadwell) outside
of the tent investigating a bear that came into camp. It was obviously raining very
hard at the time and seems to have been twilight or evening, judging from some comments.
"The bear attacks (Treadwell), and he calls for help. Ms. Huguenard opens the tent
fly and is very upset. At her urging, he 'plays dead.' It sounds like the bear then
retreated for a couple minutes but returned. It again went after him, and he begged
her to hit it with something. She in turn screamed for him to fight. The audio ends
with his sounds no longer evident and her screams continuing.
"Based on all the evidence, I would guess that this old, large boar had been hanging
around the areas getting the last fish of the season. There was little else available
to eat, and he competed with the sow for food. Although not in bad condition, he
needed more fat for the winter.
"That evening, probably Sunday night, (the male) was walking along a major bear
trail and walked by the tent. When he encountered Mr. Treadwell, the bear reacted
and either bit him and/or hit him. When he 'played dead,' the bear left, but as
is often the case, when Mr. Treadwell started moving again, and/or Ms. Huguenard
came to his aid, the bear returned.
"At this time, for some reason, the bear killed and ate him. I suspect that Ms.
Huguenard's screams, which sound eerily like a predator call, may have prompted
the bear to return and kill her. He then cached her body to be eaten later.''
A predator call is a device hunters use to lure foxes, coyotes and wolves into rifle
range. It has a high-pitched tone meant to imitate the call of an injured animal.
The calls have been known to attract bears in Alaska.
The old boar that fed upon Treadwell and Huguenard -- and is likely the one that
killed them both -- was estimated to weigh more than 1,000 pounds and had broken
canine teeth. Van Daele doesn't think the other bear that rangers shot at the scene
Monday, an apparent 3-year-old, had anything to do with the killings. That bear's
stomach, along with most of its carcass, had already been consumed by other bears.
"In my assessment,'' Van Daele added at the end of a five-page memo, "Mr. Treadwell's
actions leading up to the incident, including his behavior around bears, his choice
of a campsite and his decision not to have any defensive methods or bear deterrents
in the camp, were directly responsible for this catastrophic event.''
Treadwell had carried bear-repelling spray for self-protection when he first began
coming to Alaska to commune with the bears but had stopped carrying it in recent
years. The founder of Grizzly People, an organization for bear lovers, Treadwell
didn't believe it was right to spray bears with the irritating pepper spray -- even
if it caused no long-term injuries to the bears.
"He just felt that was an invasive, aggressive mechanism that translated into a
kind of attitude. He didn't want to have that attitude,'' said friend Joel Bennett,
a Juneau filmmaker. "He kind of wanted to resign himself to whatever happened.''
Daily News Outdoor editor Craig Medred can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.