A complete animal devotee, Timothy Treadwell’s desire for the spotlight may have cost him the ultimate price. The self-proclaimed bear-whisperer and eco-warrior was a stalwart bear expert and an autodidact without a science degree.
An activist who stirred controversy among environmentalists because of his unorthodox connection with brown bears, Treadwell’s kindred soul and intimacy with bears made him get on their level and elevated himself as the savior of his subjects. Here is a detailed insight into the life story of the former addict, activist, naturalist, photographer, and writer who is believed to be responsible for his own demise as well as that of a friend and two bears.
Timothy Treadwell Bio
Timothy Treadwell was born on April 29, 1957, in Long Island, New York, to Val and Carol Dexter. An aspiring actor, Treadwell, and his four siblings were raised in New York. He is believed to have briefly attended college in Illinois before settling in southern California. Frustrated that his acting dreams weren’t taking shape, Treadwell tried his hands on jobs such as waiting and bartending. Probably depressed by his situation, he also struggled with alcohol and drug addiction.
But a 1989 epiphany changed Treadwell’s life forever. In the summer of that year, Treadwell had a transforming experience with a grizzly during a visit to Alaska which he claimed made him find his calling and never to touch drugs again. The ‘redeeming’ experience did not only sparked Treadwell’s curiosity but also left him awe-struck by brown bears and became the genesis of the following 13 years he spent photographing, filming, and camping among bears.
Life and Death of The American Environmentalist
In his lifetime, the Grizzly Man who described himself as both kind and viciously tough loved and respected all animals. He raised awareness for bears and also inspired other wildlife advocates. He was devoted to the animals and to sharing their story. Promoting love and respect for the wild especially among school children, Treadwell emphasized that his purpose was to save the bears from hunters and poachers. Fortunately, his efforts earned him national recognition and a celebrity status.
In 1997, together with Palovak, Treadwell co-authored Among Grizzlies: Living With Wild Bears in Alaska. He is also the founder of Grizzly People, a non-profit organization for bear enthusiasts which is dedicated to protecting and preserving grizzly bear habitats.
Treadwell who claimed to enjoy the company of bears more than that of humans so loved the creatures that he invested 13 summers of his life with them. In fact, the environmentalist’s love for the animals made him ignore their darker tendencies as he was often seen in close proximity to big brown bears and running freely among them.
When Treadwell initially began camping out in the woods, he armed himself with bear-repelling spray for self-protection but after a while, he became convinced that it was wrong to spray the bears with the pepper sprays and therefore, he totally let down his guard. During most of his summers in the Alaska wilderness, Treadwell who believed he was there to help and not harm the bears, went with no form of protection such as a gun, repellant sprays, nor some sort of fencing for his tent.
For many years, he carried on with his boundless enthusiasm for grizzlies until a 2003 Alaska trip which became his final communion with the bears. October 6, 2003, heralded the inevitable disaster which is considered to be the first fatal bear attack in the ‘Grizzly Maze’ or Katmai park history. On this final trip, Treadwell and his 37-year-old girlfriend, Amie Huguenard pitched their tent beside a nearby salmon stream at Katmai National Park, Alaska, filming and studying the bears.
While environmental records show that attacks on humans by Alaska brown bears are quite rare, Treadwell’s case was an exception, presumably because, this time around, he chose to camp a little later than usual – when the bears in the remote area were getting more restless due to increasing food scarcity.
On that fateful day, Treadwell and Huguenard were fatally mauled by one or more brown bears, and a pilot flying over the campsite discovered their remains the next morning. Tim and Amie’s partially eaten remains, their possessions, (including a videotape which recorded parts of the incident) were discovered. Not only were the two bodies retrieved but two bears were also killed in the process.
Though the controversial Timothy Treadwell was mourned, his actions also stirred criticisms. While some hail him as a devoted environmental activist, critics frame him as a fanatic whose passion beclouded his judgment and made him endanger both his life and that of animals. He has also been blamed for his girlfriend’s death and regarded as a charlatan whose ‘dangerous’ and ‘misguided’ actions wrought more harm than good.
For many environmental activists, Treadwell was a controversial figure before his death and will remain so even in death. His posthumous fame has led to the production of two movies and two books. More so, a documentary (Grizzly Man), which chronicled Treadwell’s videos and photos while in Katmai was released in 2005.