Timothy Treadwell

The Life and Death of Timothy Treadwell

Timothy Treadwell, an American bear enthusiast, environmentalist, amateur naturalist, eco-warrior and documentary film maker was born on Long Island, New York in 1957 and died forty-six years later in Katmai National Park and Preserve in Alaska when he and his girlfriend, Amie Huguenard, were attacked, killed and partially devoured by a single adult Grizzly Bear.

In all likelihood, the attack caught Treadwell by surprise. It was the thirteenth straight summer he had spent living among the Grizzly Bears in that part of the National Park. And over that time he had grown to believe that the bears he had encountered had become comfortable with his presence in their habitat.

Timothy Treadwell But that year, 2003, he stayed in the Park later than he normally had done in previous years because of a dispute over travel arrangements with an airline. It was in that year, as well, that food for the bears in the park was scarcer than in past years. And, to heighten the danger that Treadwell and his girlfriend faced, the bears that knew him had already begun hibernation. The bear that ultimately took his life was a Grizzly he did not know and, as he mentioned in his final video, a bear that he feared.

Awareness of the peril came too late for Timothy Treadwell and his girlfriend. But his odyssey actually began 13 years earlier when, on a visit to Alaska, he discovered the bears and realized – almost immediately – that they would become “his calling.” Until that time, Treadwell has been an alcoholic and then, even worse, a heroin drug addict.

He claimed, before his death, that he had known that his life was spiraling out of control as a result of his substance abuses and that’s why he decided to make a dramatic lifestyle change – to become a bear enthusiast. Treadwell even achieved some fame and appeared on The Discovery Channel … on the David Letterman Show … and on Dateline NBC where he got to discuss in a public – and national – forum his then supposed symbiotic relationship with Grizzly Bears.

Treadwell, capitalizing on his newly-found fame, also wrote a book that described his adventures. It was called “Among Grizzlies: Living with Wild Bears in Alaska.” An interesting fact on Treadwell’s life is that, before he became a bear enthusiast, he auditioned for the role made famous by actor Woody Harrelson in the hit TV series, “Cheers.”

When Treadwell lost the role (and there is no proof that he even came in second to Harrelson) he switched gears and began this tragic and, ultimately, fatal relationship with the Grizzlies. Throughout his thirteen year odyssey, Treadwell was repeatedly warned by Park Rangers that he was “trespassing” on the bears’ habitat and that he was a dangerous nuisance. He chose to ignore them and it cost him his life.

There is an audio that exists of the attack as it was taking place. It has never been played publicly.

Grizzly Bear Information Center