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Treadwell book excerpt: Pilot makes grisly discovery

 

By NICK JANS

 

Published: August 28, 2005

Last Modified: August 28, 2005 at 07:43 AM

 

EDITOR'S NOTE: Few Alaska stories have captured the world's attention like the life and death of Timothy Treadwell, the Californian who spent 13 summers living among brown bears in Katmai National Park. Interest in the deaths of Treadwell and companion Amie Huguenard has peaked again with the movie "Grizzly Man" and the book "Grizzly Maze: Timothy Treadwell's Fatal Obsession With Alaskan Bears," released earlier this summer. Juneau writer Nick Jans tells a rich tale of Treadwell's bizarre life, his interactions with Alaskans and what happened on the Katmai coast. A warning: The following excerpt contains graphic detail of Treadwell's and Huguenard's deaths.

 

When Andrew Airways pilot Willy Fulton lands at Upper Kaflia Lake at 2 p.m. Oct. 6, 2003, things don't seem right. He's flown Tim Treadwell for years and is expecting the usual neat pile of gear down by the water's edge, ready for a quick load and fly-out. Neither did Treadwell make his customary contact with his hand-held VHF radio as the plane approached. Fulton taxis the Beaver into the tiny bay below camp. As he steps out onto the floats, he sees movement on the knoll. His view partly blocked by the brush, he figures it's a person shaking out a tarp. Things are all right after all. Tim and his companion, Amie Huguenard, were just somehow delayed, maybe the weather, a video opportunity, or a morning hike that went on too long. They'd better hurry; the weather isn't getting any better. Pounding rain and a lowering sky.

 

He calls out their names.

 

Silence. A little strange, but nothing to worry about.

 

Unarmed, clumping along in the floatplane pilot's standard footgear -- hip waders -- he starts the 80-yard climb up the more direct of two main bear trails that wind toward camp. "About halfway up, I got kind of an odd feeling," he says, "and decided to go back to the plane." He wants to take off, look things over from the air. Tim and Amie will probably be coming along through the brush from the creek, waving to him. The Beaver is moored to a clump of alders against the bank. Pausing to untie, Fulton glances over his shoulder. And behind him is a bear, coming fast and low, eerily silent, 20 feet away. As the pilot leaps to his floats and pushes off, the bear is a body length behind. Fulton scrambles into the cockpit and slams the door. The bear, a big, dark male, skids to a stop at the water's edge, eyes still fixed on him. Huffing, the bear paces the bank as the plane drifts out into the lake. Normally Fulton would have a shotgun in his plane, as per state regulations, but he's left it back in Kodiak.

 

"I've been charged by a few bears, but this was different," Fulton says. "He wasn't doing that usual bear-of-the-woods thing, acting big and bad. He was crouched down, sneaking on me. That look in his eye was real different too. Right then I felt like he was out to kill me and eat me." Fulton's heart is thumping. Now he knows something isn't right. The Beaver's engine rattles to life, and the bear fades into the alders.

 

Fulton is shaken by his own near scrape, but this is swept away by waves of dread. Maybe it happened this time, maybe he went too far. ... Oh, Jesus ... He taxis out into the center of the lake, turns into the wind, and takes off. Circling over the camp, he can see the tents -- still staked out but mashed flat. And in front of one he sees a large bear, the same one, he figures, feeding on human remains -- a rib cage for certain. But just one body -- someone's still alive down there. He makes pass after pass, 15 or 20, he figures, swooping lower and lower, trying to drive off the bear and looking for other signs of movement. "I just about knocked him off the body, I was so low," Fulton says. "The floats were maybe two or three feet over his head and I couldn't get any lower because of the brush." His voice has the same tone as if he's talking about weather, instead of high-stakes, screw-up-and-die flying. But the bear doesn't budge and, by the last few passes, doesn't even look up. "He just crouched down," Fulton remembers, "and ate faster."

 

There's no sign of anyone. Still, Tim or Amie -- he's not sure which -- could be hiding somewhere, maybe in one of the tents or out in the brush, maybe even a mile or two away. He taxis to different places on the upper lake, stops the engine, and calls, his voice echoing in the rain-swept silence. Then he takes off, flies to the lower lake and to different places in the bay, stopping and calling again and again. No answer.

 

Willy Fulton lands, taxis to the west end of the lake, and raises Andrew Airways, back in Kodiak. Operations manager Stan Divine in turn calls the Alaska State Troopers in Kodiak and the National Park Service in King Salmon, which is on the mainland, a hundred miles west of Kaflia, on the far side of the Alaska Peninsula. Ranger Joel Ellis takes the call at 2:35 p.m. Though he's in his first year in Alaska, just completing his first season at Katmai, he's had 20 years of experience as a ranger, including posts at Yellowstone and Grand Teton -- places with grizzlies.

 

Ellis immediately contacts Allen Gilliland, the Park Service pilot, to get the Park Service Cessna 206 floatplane ready. Then Ellis touches base with the state troopers, as well as the Alaska Department of Fish and Game. He relays a message through Andrew Airways, asking Fulton to wait where he is. Though it's Sunday afternoon and offices are closed, Ellis is able to make contact with both agencies. He also calls ranger Derek Dalrymple and tells him to hustle in. The rangers grab first aid gear and two Remington Model 870 pump shotguns -- preferred for their sure, nonjamming actions -- and boxes of rifled slugs. Ellis is wearing his .40-caliber Smith & Wesson service pistol. There's a strict protocol to be followed. Ellis is medic and operations commander of the rescue effort. With acting park superintendent Joe Fowler out of town, chief back-country ranger Missy Epping assumes the formal role as incident commander. She'll remain in King Salmon to supervise communication, pass the word up the chain of command, and get the paperwork moving. Unlike Ellis, who is new to Katmai, Epping has a personal stake in all this. She's known Treadwell for years and considers him a friend.

 

The Cessna is in the air less than an hour after Ellis takes the initial call. Ellis says, "At this point we were on a rescue mission, not knowing if people were dead or alive." On the other hand, Gilliland, planning for the worst, has brought along a couple of body bags from the King Salmon Police Department.

 

The two men accompanying Ellis, though selected by circumstance, might have been hand-picked for what lies ahead. Gilliland is more than just a pilot. He's an avid and skilled hunter who knows the country -- as well as a certified firearms instructor. Before he became a Park Service pilot, he was a cop in King Salmon for 16 years. Dalrymple, though a seasonal ranger, has been involved in investigating three previous bear-mauling incidents in the Lower 48. He is, as Gilliland later says, "very experienced -- a steady guy to have around."

 

Eighty miles away in Kodiak, state troopers Chris Hill and Allan Jones are airborne. The weather between King Salmon and Kaflia is getting iffy, closing down. Another fast-moving coastal storm is forecast, which may force the Park Service plane to turn back. The troopers are in radio contact with them; if everyone makes it, they'll rendezvous after landing at upper Kaflia Lake.

 

The Park Service plane runs into skeins of fog and rain, ceilings below 300 feet. Gilliland isn't sure they can make it in. Fulton tells them they dadgum well better. Someone may be alive, and he's not leaving. With him playing the role of air controller, the Park Service plane makes it through the weather and taxis down the lake. They confer with Fulton, who by now has been waiting for nearly three hours, alone in the world of unspoken fears, unable to help or do anything for his friends. He jumps in the 206, and they taxi the half mile east toward the outlet stream and the knoll. As they coast toward shore, Gilliland points out a bear on the hill, standing by one of the tents.

 

Ellis recalls, "We got out of the plane, guns ready. We were in a combat-ready situation, yelling for the people." The shouting is also to alert any bears in the area and drive them away. After tying up the plane, they immediately begin to move forward, hands clenched around weapons, still calling out for Treadwell and Huguenard. Ellis, Dalrymple, and Gilliland thread single file along the steep, narrow trail rising through the alders. Fulton, "amped up" as he says, clambers ahead of them, unarmed, and has to be reminded more than once to slow down. They break into the open below the crown of the knoll and pause, spreading out so that they can all fire at once if necessary. At Gilliland's urging, they decide to wait for Hill and Jones, who are just landing. Because of a lack of space in the tiny bay and overhanging alders everywhere else, the troopers will have to moor 200 yards down the shore and muscle their way along the bank through heavy brush. Gilliland suggests the troopers might have a large-caliber rifle, and the extra firepower could make a difference. Tense and dry-mouthed, standing in the cold deluge of rain, the four men remain facing uphill toward the crest of the grass-crowned knoll, where they last saw the bear. Off to their right is a marshy, open swale; ahead, a curtain of 8-foot alder brush and chest-high grass that restricts visibility to a few arm lengths. The bear trails that snake through the growth will require them, in places, to bend at the waist.

 

Gilliland, the pilot, channels his jitters into his eyes, scanning the brush in all directions. The threat, as it turns out, comes from the rear.

 

"Bear!" he shouts. It's less than 20 feet away, head low, moving silently toward them, its outline blurred by the alders. All four men yell repeatedly, throwing all their pent-up emotion into it, trying to haze the big male away. Instead of retreating -- as almost any bear would, from a tightly packed, aggressive, loud group of humans -- it stares straight at them and steps forward. In his official Incident Report, Ellis will write, "I perceived the bear was well aware of our presence and was stalking us. I believe that."

 

Gilliland concurs. "We were between the bear and its carcass, but it didn't charge us to defend it like most bears would do. It had circled around us and was coming quietly from the rear."

 

Fulton adds, "He had that same look in his eye. I think he meant to kill all of us."

 

The first movement toward them is enough of a signal to the men, whose nerves are stretched like piano wire. Ellis says, "We didn't confer. We all just started shooting." Fulton, who is between the men and the bear, finds himself literally in the crossfire.

 

"I just remember gun barrels swinging toward me," he says. With the bear a dozen feet away, he dives to the ground and the fusillade explodes overhead.

 

A half-ton brown bear, as experienced hunters know, can be almost impossible to stop, especially worked up, coming straight in. There are tales of magnum-caliber rounds -- slugs dadgum near the size of a thumb -- deflecting off the thick, sloped forehead, and charging animals absorbing incredible punishment, dead on their feet but still coming. Gilliland says he never saw one go down once and stay down. But the barrage unleashed by the rangers is staggering: five rounds each of one-ounce rifled shotgun slugs from Dalrymple and Gilliland, and 11 soft points from Ellis' .40 caliber semiautomatic handgun -- 19 shots in under 15 seconds, the booming crash of shotguns overlaid with the sharp, rapid crack of pistol fire.

 

Troopers Jones and Hill are just tying off their plane when they hear the volley. "I thought it was some sort of fancy multiple-report cracker shell the Park Service guys had," recalls Jones, referring to the shotgun-fired noisemakers often used to scare off aggressive bears. "It was a continuous series of shots, quite a racket."

 

Gilliland's report reads, "I fired five rounds ... with one hit to the head below the eye and four hits to the neck and shoulder." In retrospect, Gilliland feels his first shot killed the bear instantly. But given his experience and the extreme close range, he didn't take chances.

 

Ranger Dalrymple's version is more laconic: "I shot until the threat was stopped."

 

The big bear drops in his tracks, twitches, sighs out one last breath, and is dead. The men stand stunned in the rain, wrapped in a cloud of acrid powder smoke, their ears ringing and their breath steaming into the air. They're alive. Ellis paces off the distance separating him and the bear: 12 feet. Gilliland says later, "If it was an all-out charge, he would have taken down one of us."

 

Pilot Willy Fulton is back on his feet. "I want to look that bear in the eyes," he says. He studies the blood-spattered face, the small, rapidly glazing pupils, and says he's sure it's the same bear that chased him to the plane, the same one he saw on the knoll. The four men continue the last 30 yards to the campsite, no less on edge. Below, the troopers are in sight, making their way through the brush along the lakeshore.

 

The tents are tucked back in the alders, both crushed down but intact; either a bear has walked over them or someone has fallen against them, but the fabric's neither ripped up nor bloody. In front of the sleeping tent is a large mound of mud, grass and sticks. Several metal bear-resistant food containers are scattered on the north side of the camp in some disarray, but sealed and unmarked by claws or teeth. However, it's the mound in front of the first tent, where the bear had stood, that captures the would-be rescuers' attention. There in the muck is what lead ranger Ellis later calls, his voice tight, "fresh flesh" -- fingers and an arm protruding from the pile.

 

There is also a chunk of organ Gilliland believes is a kidney. Digging into the bear's cache will reveal further horror. At least one person is gone, but there's still the possibility of a survivor.

 

While Gilliland goes down to the lake to meet troopers Hill and Jones, Fulton and Ellis explore the tents. Dalrymple stands guard with his shotgun. Since both tents are flattened, Ellis decides the quickest way in is to slash the fabric with his knife. Someone could still be inside, unconscious and torn up, but alive. But they find only clothing and camping and camera gear, most of it stowed neatly. Food in small Ziploc bags, ready to be eaten, as if lunch had been interrupted. Sleeping tent unzipped. Gear tent zipped shut.

 

By this time, Jones and Hill are on the scene. With unmistakable evidence of at least one fatality, the investigation is officially handed over to the Alaska state troopers. Hill is the officer in charge. The troopers brief everyone on crime scene protocol -- the same rules apply here -- and begin documenting the area. Hill takes a couple of minutes of shaky videotape of the wreckage. Ellis and Dalrymple backtrack to the Park Service plane to bring up notebooks and cameras as well. Meanwhile, Gilliland, ever vigilant, spots a bear -- an enormous dark male drifting silently up the same trail he and the troopers have just used. Vision screened by the brush and grass, Gilliland doesn't see it until it's practically on top of them. The animal seems equally unaware -- just traveling the same trail it has for years, every step locked in memory. This guy is bigger than the last one. Just before denning, his muscular frame sheathed in fat, he's at his maximum weight, maybe 1,200 pounds. Bear! Gilliland shouts.

 

Jangled as everyone's nerves are, it's a miracle no one shoots. Fulton, Gilliland and the troopers shout and wave. The bear seems nonplussed by the commotion. He considers briefly and shifts into a lumbering lope, off down the hill -- leaving, but with his dignity intact. Just another Katmai bear. Gilliland shouts a heads-up to Ellis and Dalrymple. They stand on the Cessna's floats and watch the bear stroll off to the west, then walk up the hill to join the others. For a time, everyone is busy with shooting photos and jotting notes, freezing the scene in time. Ellis asks if someone should do a perimeter check. Gilliland volunteers. He backtracks to where the dead bear lies in the alders. Skirting the edge of the knoll, weaving on a search pattern through the brush he's a stone's toss from the others, yet totally cut off.

 

Gilliland is about halfway around his circle when he finds what's left of Timothy Treadwell -- a head missing most of its scalp; part of a shoulder, some connecting tissue, and two forearms. The face, recognizable and uncrushed, is caught in a grimace. Fulton accompanies Hill down to photograph and collect the remains. Washed by the steady rain, everything is surprisingly bloodless. The wrists and face are pale, like wax. While they're working, Gilliland hears a bear popping its jaws, a clear signal of stress and possible aggression. The animal is close, but the brush is too thick to see anything. Fulton and Hill make their way up the knoll with the body bag, and Gilliland, despite the bear, continues his circling of the knoll. He finds nothing more and returns to the camp.

 

The others, excavating the cache, have discovered another head with face intact -- Amie seems peacefully asleep -- as well as some flesh-stripped bones, miscellaneous scraps, and portions of a torso.

 

Describing the remains, Ellis sounds like he's struggling for the right words, something to mitigate the horror. "It was way past the initial stages," he tells me. "One or more bears had time to eat most of two bodies and cache the remains. There was no clothing attached to any part. There wasn't much left of anything. We could not tell male from female." When I ask for more detail, he repeats, "We could not tell male from female." Then he says, after a pause, "One part had a watch on it."

 

Four men break camp and collect Timothy and Amie's gear. Each makes several trips down the now-familiar bear trail to the lake. Meanwhile, Gilliland taxis Fulton back to his plane at the other end of the lake. His Beaver will carry the remains and gear to Kodiak, where the troopers will continue the investigation. (The body bags are so light -- 40 pounds at the most between them -- that the medical examiner meeting the plane will ask for the rest.)

 

(Continued in next post.)

Edited by Criminal
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While Fulton is warming up his plane, Gilliland taxis back.

 

As he's hiking up the knoll one last time, he hears trooper Hill yell, Bear! Gilliland can see it moving in the brush, circling from the right toward Ellis and Hill, who are to his left. Dalrymple and Jones are to the right and behind, standing by the pile of gear on the lake shore. About 30 feet separates the three men in front and the bear. It's a much smaller animal, probably a 3-year-old -- the kind of bear that most often gets in trouble with people.

 

Driven off by their mothers and on their own for the first time, some are timid and uncertain; others curious and apparently eager for company; a few aggressive, testing the boundaries, seeing how far they can push things. Teenagers, in other words. There's nothing abnormal about the bear's approach, but its timing couldn't be worse. The men have all had enough -- all of them tired and raw-nerved. Still, they hold off. Everyone waves and yells the by-now-familiar mantra, their voices low and forceful: Hey, bear! Ahhh! Get outta here!

 

Vision obscured by a clump of alder, Gilliland circles to his right. He yells to the others that he's going to take a warning shot. There is little reaction from the bear, which continues closing the distance between itself and Ellis -- then turns to go, but circles back, ears forward and staring. It's far too persistent -- either overly curious or aggressive That's it. Ellis shouts for Gilliland to take a shot if he has one. Gilliland replies that he doesn't. The bear moves into a window in the brush, still closing the distance, and Hill and Ellis open fire with their slug-loaded 12-gauge pump guns -- once each. The bear turns, giving Gilliland a momentary opening. He shoots twice. The bear falls and struggles to get up. Gilliland moves in and makes a killing shot to the base of the skull. Four dead now -- two people, two bears. No one takes comfort in the grim mathematical symmetry.

 

It's now after 6 p.m., the light fading and the weather deteriorating. Wind rattles in the alders, scattering leaves and ruffling the dark water of Kaflia Lake.

 

All three planes have an hour of flying ahead and will be landing on the water in near darkness. There's no time to do a necropsy on the dead bears -- open them up and see what's in the gastrointestinal tract, discover if they even have the bears involved in the predation. That job will have to wait for Fish and Game tomorrow, weather willing. It's a task better suited to trained biologists, anyway.

 

One by one, the three planes taxi east, turn, and roar down the lake in the dusk -- Ellis, Dalrymple and Gilliland in the Park Service Cessna 206, bound for King Salmon; troopers Jones and Hill in their Super Cub headed for Kodiak; and Willy Fulton in the Andrew Airways Beaver, alone with his gruesome load and his thoughts. Six men ride the currents of the sky, rising away from this place of darkness and death. But Kaflia will stir on its haunches and follow them the rest of their lives.

 

From "The Grizzly Maze" by Nick Jans. Reprinted by arrangement with Dutton, a member of Penguin Group (USA) Inc. Copyright 2005 by Nick Jans.

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Thanks Chris. I have had a few bear incounters in the Brooks Range. I have sent the article to my son Tom, who lived on Takahula Lake for a few years and was a bush pilot before working himself up to Captain on a 747-400. For those interested in Alaska adventures, I would suggest the book "On the Edge of Nowhere" by James Huntington as told by Lawrence Elliott.

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OK, I like quality caches that require physical effort too. But that's another topic entirely. You still have not shown that this has anything whatsoever to do with geocaching.

I feel silly to have to explain this. There are many geocaches placed and hunted on land that we share with bears. There are some good lessons about bear behavior, methods the experts use to frighten away bears, and wound ballistics. Should I send my threads to you before I post them?

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I'm an Alaskan cacher and cache were there are bears. I think everyone up here should (and most do) know about Timothy Treadwell. He was quite the idiot and brought this on himself. There are bear safety rules to follow and if you choose to go against them while caching, this is what can happen. You CAN be killed by not following safety protocal. So yea, that is what it has to do with caching.

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It seems more likely that you're bored and wanting to generate controversy, when there are innumerable websites you could have shared that have much more useful information about Bear Safety.

Wow, I don't know where all this hostility is coming from. I found it to be an interesting story, nothing more. What do you consider controversial?

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What does this have to do with Geocaching?

Pretty sure this is why they have forum mods.

 

My money's on Criminal.

:drama: Okay... from what I can gather... Criminals choice of caching is in the woods and hiking. Which is why he posted this info about bears.

 

Prying Pandora (is like me)... Likes all kinds of caching from the hikes in woods to the hides (quote Criminal) "under lamposts".

 

So maybe Criminal needed to be more specific on who he was writing to. i.e... the high mountain hiker geocachers.

 

ANYWAY... I still hold to the truth that there are all kinds of cachers and YOU pick what suits you. If it's puzzles, go for it. If it's strenuous hikes, go for it. If it's urban mircos, go for it.

 

DON'T JUDGE ANOTHER for what they like. Can we just get along and accept what our preferences are?

 

Donna WD :blink::blink:

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Thanks for the article Chris. I love reading bear encounter stuff. I remember when Cache Ahead and I saw that Grizzly at Glacier National Park. We had just finished the virts up in that park and had gone exploring up another road on the east side of the great park.

 

We didn't think...just jumped out of the rig to take pics of the4 bruin. Hell, it was only on the ohter side of the road...just behind some bushes. Then it crossed the road, angling, towards us. At this time, we decided we'd better get back to the truck. As it was, it just continued on down into the brush on our side. Quite a sight! We managed to get a couple pics of it.

 

I won't be solo hiking in Montana...Grizzlies are a different critter than your average black bear. I had one black bear encounter several years ago, but it took off just after a minute of lookng at me as I climbed up over a small knoll. It had been grazing on blueberries.

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Prying Pandora (is like me)... Likes all kinds of caching from the hikes in woods to the hides (quote Criminal) "under lamposts".

 

So maybe Criminal needed to be more specific on who he was writing to. i.e... the high mountain hiker geocachers.

 

DON'T JUDGE ANOTHER for what they like. Can we just get along and accept what our preferences are?

 

There was no judgment going on in my post, the answer just seemed too obvious. I apologize if my reply came off sounding flippant. Her post did not contribute to my thread whatsoever.

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I was about 16 or 17 years old and my dad, brother and a couple other guys were hiking along the North Fork Quinault in the Olympics. We happened upon a black bear on the other side of a small ravine and spent a few minutes eyeing each other before he walked off one way and we went the other.

 

Later that night as we sat around the campfire talking about it, my brother, who is famously understated, said that he hadn't been worried about anything happening. My dad asked him why not and he replied dryly, "I only had to out run one person."

 

:blink::blink::drama:

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On my first solo hike here in Alaska I had been hiking for several hours making my way around some small mountains. I saw a sweet little green spot on the opposite side of the valley that I decided to make my camp at. So I worked my way down to the creek in between the mountains and started looking for a good place to cross. Knowing I was in bear country I of course had kept my eyes open. But there was a lot of brush in this valley due to the creek. So I looked a bit upsteam, made my way back downstream a bit, just looking for a place I wouldn't get wet over my thighs. Looked back upstream to see a big a** grizzly coming right towards me. He was not meandering but making a steady beeline! Crap that was scary. So I started to back away, without turning my back on him. That's hard to do with a pack on, going uphill. Finally I just turned around and started working my way back up the mountain I had just spent two hours getting down. Pissed me off. Plus, my pack really interfered with my field of vision so I would have to stop and turn completly around to see him. I finally went over a little shoulder and was out of site of him. Of course this meant I couldn't see HIM. He had already got to the spot I was and had stopped to sniff around. So up further I went. When I could finally see over the little shoulder I couldn't see him at all. That freaked me out as I thought he was on his way up. After a few minutes of frantic searching, I saw him way on downstream. Dang he was moving fast to get all the way down there allready. Anyway, I decided in the case that it was a regular trail to forego that little green spot I had been heading towards and camped somewhere else. It took quite a while before my adrenaline was back to normal.

Edited by 1stimestar
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On my first solo hike here in Alaska ...

That had to be beyond unnerving. I was going after a FTF in Pt Defiance Park long after the gates had closed and on my way back out I saw a black bear waddle across the road in the dim light of the moon. I was looking over my shoulder nervously until I was back in the truck, and that was just a black bear!

 

I was fishing in Charleston SC and saw an alligator about 30 meters out in the water. I started splashing the rod tip in the water and the gator made a bee-line right for me, fast. I can’t imagine how nervous I’d feel if a grizzly were to make a direct path towards me. According to all the books, the noise of you yelling and the waving your arms is supposed to scare them away. What do you do if the bear hasn’t read the book?

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On my first solo hike here in Alaska ...

That had to be beyond unnerving. I was going after a FTF in Pt Defiance Park long after the gates had closed and on my way back out I saw a black bear waddle across the road in the dim light of the moon. I was looking over my shoulder nervously until I was back in the truck, and that was just a black bear!

 

I was fishing in Charleston SC and saw an alligator about 30 meters out in the water. I started splashing the rod tip in the water and the gator made a bee-line right for me, fast. I can’t imagine how nervous I’d feel if a grizzly were to make a direct path towards me. According to all the books, the noise of you yelling and the waving your arms is supposed to scare them away. What do you do if the bear hasn’t read the book?

Stick an apple in your mouth? :unsure:

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So this is the scary bear thread?

 

Black bears, just make noise and they run away. I've finally retired my 'bear cooler' which had a big chuck of the foam taken out by a black bear that swatted it around to get to the sausages inside.

 

Grizzlies, a pre-caching story -

 

We were staying at Two Medicine in Glacier NP, and leonata wasn't feeling well so she took a nap. I decided to hike around the lake. After visiting Twin Falls above Upper Two Medicine Lake, I was walking back to the main trail when I heard and saw crashing through the bushes headed straight for me. Now, the brush here was low enough that I could tell it wasn't a moose or something, but it was big, whatever it was.

 

So I spoke up. "Hey there." Twenty or thirty feet away a grizzly stands up and looks me over. "Ah. Hi there. I'll just be getting out of your way," I said (or words to that effect), as I backed up. Keep in mind I'm on a trail that dead ends at a waterfall. It's walk past the bear, getting even closer, or scale a cliff.

 

The grizzly looked me over and with a huff dropped to all fours and turned its back to me, but otherwise didn't move. Apparently it was a believer in the Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy rule that if it can't see you, you can't see it. Worked for me.

 

I cautiously headed down the spur trail I was on (getting even closer to the bear as I did so), and once safely past picked up my pace. I could see the folks who had left the falls shortly before I did up at the trail junction gesturing frantically.

 

When I reached them I got the rest of the story. Apparently the grizzly had crossed the main trail near some hikers and headed deeper into the brush to get away from them, or so it though. The youngest son in the group that had left the falls just before me spotted the bear as it angled towards them and pointed it out to the family, who understandably freaked. The bear, tired of all the noise, headed further in, only to encounter me. No wonder it decided to pretend I wasn't there. Too many people bothering its tranquility when all it wanted to do is wander through the woods.

 

We all (um, we people, not the bear) headed back to the campground by various routes and reported the encounter to the ranger on duty like good tourists. I especially 'enjoyed' the portion of my hike that took me though seven-foot high bushes that had a sign warning that bears frequented the area. I didn't have the good fortune to meet any others, though.

 

The grizzly and I both did what we were suppose to, more or less, and we both walked away from the encounter. That's how it should go, ideally...

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I found this today. It’s sadly ironic that someone with so much intelligence could not see the forest for the trees. Wild animals are simply that, wild. They cannot reason or put logical considerations into their decisions. Animals are by their nature instinctually driven.

 

 

Outside Magazine January 2004

 

Some Bet on My Death

In a stunning final letter, Timothy Treadwell speaks out on naysayers, fear, and what he believed was acceptance into the clan of the bear

 

THIS PAST SUMMER—his 13th in Alaska—Timothy Treadwell wrote frequent letters to family and friends, including Roland Dixon, a Bellevue, Colorado, rancher and conservation activist who was one of Treadwell's most steadfast financial supporters. In late July, Treadwell had arrived in the area he called the Grizzly Maze, the vast tangle of meadows and thickets stretching inland from Kaflia Bay. To his delight, the Maze's bears were faring well, particularly one he called Aunt Melissa, and her two cubs, Lilly and Dixon, the latter named in Roland Dixon's honor. As Treadwell wrote to Dixon on August 25, he believed he was experiencing a breakthrough: "I am in the most exciting and dangerous time of my...fieldwork. I am so deep within the brown bear culture. It is fascinating, beautiful, and at times treacherous." His last letter to Dixon—which Dixon has provided exclusively to Outside, hoping to give Treadwell a voice in the controversy over his death—was flown out on September 14 by a bush plane carrying supplies. It would be one of his final communications to the outside world.

 

EXPEDITION 2003

Timothy Treadwell

The Grizzly Maze, Alaska

Sunday, September 14, 2003

 

Roland...

Hello! I am writing you a last letter for the journey. My last food delivery is scheduled for late today.

 

My transformation complete—a fully accepted wild animal—brother to these bears. I run free among them—with absolute love and respect for all the animals. I am kind and viciously tough.

 

People—especially the bear experts of Alaska—believe this cannot be done. Some even bet on my death. They are sure you must have some sort of weapon for defense—pepper spray at the least, an electric fence a must. And you cannot hope to make it in a flimsy tent under thick cover among one of Earth's largest gatherings of giant brown grizzly bears.

 

People who knowingly enter bear habitat with pepper spray, guns, and electric fences are committing a crime to the animals. They begin with the accepted idea of bringing instruments of pain to the animals. If they are that fearful, then they have no place in the land of this perfect animal.

 

Could I look at Dixon, Lilly, and their mother, Melissa, and tell them that I love them, that I will care for them, with a can of mace in my pocket? Does the fox or vole get zapped by the wicked sting of an electric fence for being curious?

 

This wilderness—the Grizzly Maze—had big problems not too many years ago. People who came to kill the animals. I was threatened with death. One group promising to stuff me alive in a crab pot and submerge it in the icy sea.

 

They are gone now. The Maze returned to the animals.

 

You made this possible. I am a miserable fundraiser. Without you these animals would have been left without any care. Care that I can offer them without any displacement or disrespect. I even erase my footprints.

 

. . . You got me here for so many years. I will always remember and be thankful. . . . I will tell [the bears] of your kindness and generosity. Animals alive because of you. Myself included.

 

Sincerely,

Timothy Treadwell

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I found this today.  It’s sadly ironic that someone with so much intelligence could not see the forest for the trees.  Wild animals are simply that, wild.  They cannot reason or put logical considerations into their decisions.  Animals are by their nature instinctually driven.

Indeed. I did a little googling about on Treadwell - and the number of folks who insisted that his death had nothing to do with 'his bears' astonished me. Heck, I've known half a dozen *dogs* (domesticated for millenia) to turn on their owners. (The reasons range from an ill tempered dog who tolerated no one but his owner finally snapping to trying to get between to dog and his food.) Animals are not fuzzy people.

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Oh yea but since he huffed at you, it would seem he was already agitated.  That would scare me.

I've had a few bear encounters (1 as close as 15' in heavy cover and 1 at 3' inside a tent.) both Black and Brown. I always took the huff or woof to mean "Move it or Lose it" and took immediate appropriate action. Cleaning out the shorts came later. :)

Edited by CENT5
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This is interesting that I see this post here and another website. I was out today in the sun and had flashbacks to this very post from several days ago!......I think it's very informative. We don't have the grizz like Alaska, but we do have more black bears than any other state but Alaska.

 

While doing some caches near Lake Fontal today I jumped a BIG bear about 30 ft away. I think it was sleeping. It took a quick look at me and then crashed off through the brush.

 

I wasn't too worried and continued on to the cache. Wildlife is everywhere and if we don't learn to respect and live with them you won't be comfortable in the woods. I don't stress over it and nobody should. Enjoy caching and just know that you aren't the only animal looking for caches......:)

Edited by GeoRoo
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like many other longtime alaska magazine subscribers, i have been aware of treadwell for quite some time now. i just spent several hours this weekend watching and re-watching my spankin' new grizzly man dvd, and i will undoubtedly read the jans' book this summer. i've always enjoyed jans' alaska writing, he is a terrific author, and i'm sure his treatment of treadwell's story is fair and impeccably researched.

 

i had one treadwell in mind before i saw the film: a bumbling do-gooder, struggling to find a place in the world, sort of a harmless idiot. the hubris and arrogance that leaped off the screen was stunning, and opened my eyes to something entirely different. i've read plenty of bear attack stories, and know (and followed) what experts like stephen herrero say to do when traveling in bear country. i've hiked alone in alaska, wondering what some of the far-off sounds might be. that timothy treadwell chose to thumb his nose at park service rules that stem from years of study by trained and qualified biologists, that he habituated bears to his presence, and that he bragged that he was immune to bear attack serves as a great lesson to all who travel into backcountry areas, whether to hike, camp, fish, hunt, or cache. we are responsible to know the dangers, do our homework, and, whether we want to admit it or not, follow the rules. treadwell thought the rules were not for him, and as a direct result people and bears died.

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like many other longtime alaska magazine subscribers, i have been aware of treadwell for quite some time now. i just spent several hours this weekend watching and re-watching my spankin' new grizzly man dvd, and i will undoubtedly read the jans' book this summer. i've always enjoyed jans' alaska writing, he is a terrific author, and i'm sure his treatment of treadwell's story is fair and impeccably researched.

 

i had one treadwell in mind before i saw the film: a bumbling do-gooder, struggling to find a place in the world, sort of a harmless idiot. the hubris and arrogance that leaped off the screen was stunning, and opened my eyes to something entirely different. i've read plenty of bear attack stories, and know (and followed) what experts like stephen herrero say to do when traveling in bear country. i've hiked alone in alaska, wondering what some of the far-off sounds might be. that timothy treadwell chose to thumb his nose at park service rules that stem from years of study by trained and qualified biologists, that he habituated bears to his presence, and that he bragged that he was immune to bear attack serves as a great lesson to all who travel into backcountry areas, whether to hike, camp, fish, hunt, or cache. we are responsible to know the dangers, do our homework, and, whether we want to admit it or not, follow the rules. treadwell thought the rules were not for him, and as a direct result people and bears died.

 

Heh, THAT'S what I was trying to say!

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I got the distinct impression that he was living in his own made up world. It is revealed in the book that he had bear strength pepper spray, he had an electric fence and even asked the rangers for help in setting it up. He would never utilize either. His seemingly moronic ramblings will be familiar to anyone who has spent time alone and away from civilization for long periods of time, only his seem more deeply disturbing.

 

I think he built up a grandiose image for himself, the foundation of which was as false as the bear’s supposed ‘need’ for protection. He built his house of cards on the idea that bears, and even the fox he befriended, were capable of rational thought instead of being merely steered by their instincts and experience. The bears didn’t like him any more than they liked salmon, or each other for that matter. He built an experience base for them where they perceived him as more of a nuisance than a threat, a dangerous precedent. Likewise, the fox we saw eating from his hand wasn’t his friend, it merely learned there was food there, and the threat was minimal. In the end, it was the bear’s natural and normal instinct that killed him, and the woman who trusted him.

 

ADDED:

I think this was a result of ignorance more so than arrogance. We grow up watching cartoons, TV shows, and movies where the idea that animals speak to one another, and have rational thoughts and even human emotions, is portrayed as factual. He was a product of his era and his upbringing. I’m not saying there was no arrogance there, clearly there was. But his understanding, or lack thereof, about wild animals was what would kill him, not his conceit.

Edited by Criminal
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i agree, criminal, that treadwell demonstrated a great deat of ignorance, however his assertions that other people would die if they did what he did are very telling. when he made statements to the effect that, "how dare" the park service question his right to continue his course of action, i smell a HUGE ego at work. i could forgive a small child for a disneyesque view of wildlife, but a 47-year old man? how could one remain so ignorant, so long? he was informed many times of park policy and the reasons behind it. the fact that he used bear-proof food containers, and had pepper spray and electric fences on hand, demonstrates to me that he felt free to pick and choose bear country guidelines to follow. if the rule didn't interfere with his perceived "mission" it was okay, but if it did, such as camping on known bear trails, he broke it with impunity.

not to be cruel, but i sincerely feel he was mentally ill. that's the only way i can believe someone his age could maintain that unrealistic vision of the world, and himself. he seemed to surround himself with delusional people who bought into his "science" and "authority" hook, line, and sinker. it's a shame no one tried to help him in any real sense.

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Good points. We shouldn’t forget, everything he was doing, including his building up of his image, was important to his meal ticket. He was making a good living, and his concept of ‘good living’ wasn’t just monetary, but included his ‘fame’ as well. He was all Hollywood, and to maintain that he had to fabricate an image as a protector and friend of the bears. Arrogance or ignorance, he was aware that he was breaking the park rules, and his bravado would crumble rapidly when he was threatened with being ejected from the park. He gave up drugs and alcohol for a different dependency, his notoriety. He was addicted to the fame and I think he knew deep down that the fame was built on a weak foundation. It was only by creating several illusions and distorting important facts that he was able to deceive so many people. It was a house of cards just waiting for a breeze to come along expose him. He had to know that.

 

Several people did try to help him. The park officials tried everything from reasoning to threats, his financial supporter tried the same methods, all without success. I do not think any of them were trying too hard; they were too caught up in exposure they were all getting.

 

Part of me wants to think he was brave to even get as close to the bears as he did, but then I have to wonder if it was bravery or foolishness. If he genuinely believed the bears loved him, standing a few feet away from one would be natural, and foolish, but not representative of courage.

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i agree 100%!

 

one interesting thing stated by a photographer interviewed in the film, suggests that treadwell may have been tolerated by the bears to some degree because he was so busy with the filmmaking aspect of his "mission." he praised treadwell's attention to detail, often resulting in terrific still photo's, and his willingness to shoot take after take to get everything just right in his video's. it seems that treadwell may have been somewhat brave, but he was, to a far greater extent, foolish, lucky, and dedicated. his friend states that he loved high-adrenaline rush sports, and never had a problem roaring around on his motorcycle in the rain. this is more of the foolish bravery of youth, what we all get through and shake our heads at when we get older. his dedication to filmmaking may help explain the focus that completely absorbed him at times, enough that he wouldn't have time to be afraid, and maybe even just enough for the bears to tolerate his presence as a non-threat.

 

none of this would be helpful though at the end, as this sounded like an old bear, underweight and desperate. probably fairly similiar to what happened to mischio hoshino (sp?), but mischio used the proper cautions and still met a tragic end. it proves that bears will always be unpredictable, and you can never be too careful. while i would never be so callous to say that treadwell got what he deserved, i would definitely call it inevitable. it's probably more remarkable that he dodged the bullet as long as he did, than that he was killed by a bear.

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I just saw Grizzly Man the other day. Treadwell was insane. "He thought bears were people in bear suits," I think was the best quote.

He's lucky he got away with disrespecting the bear as long as he did. I had a grizzly encounter before my geocaching days, and I think that was probably the only time in my adult life where I can honestly say I was scared.

 

I definatly think about it when I'm caching in bear country, even black bear country.

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I just saw Grizzly Man the other day. Treadwell was insane. "He thought bears were people in bear suits," I think was the best quote.

He's lucky he got away with disrespecting the bear as long as he did. I had a grizzly encounter before my geocaching days, and I think that was probably the only time in my adult life where I can honestly say I was scared.

 

I definatly think about it when I'm caching in bear country, even black bear country.

Wanna tell us about the Griz encounter?

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I just saw Grizzly Man the other day. Treadwell was insane. "He thought bears were people in bear suits," I think was the best quote.

He's lucky he got away with disrespecting the bear as long as he did. I had a grizzly encounter before my geocaching days, and I think that was probably the only time in my adult life where I can honestly say I was scared.

 

I definatly think about it when I'm caching in bear country, even black bear country.

 

I too saw the show the other night, well the last half anyway. What struck me was his intense hatred of humans and extreme paranoia. A stack of rocks means poachers are out to get him? Wow. I think he went a little over the edge of the humans evil/mother earth good precipice. The worst thing that I saw people do to the bears in the show was fishermen tossing rocks at the bears when they got too close. That nearly sent Treadwell into sobbing hysteria. My unprofessional opinion-"Nutbar". Too bad no one tried to get him help... Hopefully I'll get to watch the whole show next time.

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I know Criminal stated his preference against going down this road on this thread, but I can't help but make this observation...

 

There are a lot of folks who still think Treadwell's perception of bear "personality" is correct (whether they are aware of it or not). Some of them might even be geocachers. Those folks probably need a little graphic reporting to wake them up and start thinking about their own safety and the safety of their families.

 

Thanks, Crim, for posting those excerpts!

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Too bad no one tried to get him help... Hopefully I'll get to watch the whole show next time.

 

People did, for many years. He would have none of it.

 

What I got from listening to the people who knew him (towards the end of the show) is that he was just a normal guy, it was the movie that made him look crazy. I kinda got the feeling that they were on the edge themselves. Still, an interesting show. Can't wait to get up your way 1stimestar... Maybe when it's a little warmer... ;)

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. I had a grizzly encounter before my geocaching days, and I think that was probably the only time in my adult life where I can honestly say I was scared.

 

Wanna tell us about the Griz encounter?

 

Not much to it. We were in Glacier on our honeymoon, hiking. My wife had never been in grizzly bear country, so I briefed her about what to do if we had an encounter. I had pepper spray, we were wearing bells.

We were back to the car, putting our stuff in the trunk and changing footwear when a big sow bear came through the woods and onto the road about 15 feet in front of us while we were getting things back in the trunk. She stopped, looked at us for what felt like an eternity, but was probably only a few seconds, then continued on to the lake she was headed for breaking branches along the way. All I could think about was whether there was any food in the car that she was going to smell and come to find before we could get in.

The worst part was my wife - after a few seconds - ran after where the bear had went down to get a better look.

Sheesh. I grabbed the pepper spray, ran after her, grabbed her and got in the car. The excitement of seeing the bear just trumped her better judgment. I always joke about how she was trying to make me a widower three days into our marriage.

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. I had a grizzly encounter before my geocaching days, and I think that was probably the only time in my adult life where I can honestly say I was scared.

 

Wanna tell us about the Griz encounter?

 

Not much to it. We were in Glacier on our honeymoon, hiking. My wife had never been in grizzly bear country, so I briefed her about what to do if we had an encounter. I had pepper spray, we were wearing bells.

We were back to the car, putting our stuff in the trunk and changing footwear when a big sow bear came through the woods and onto the road about 15 feet in front of us while we were getting things back in the trunk. She stopped, looked at us for what felt like an eternity, but was probably only a few seconds, then continued on to the lake she was headed for breaking branches along the way. All I could think about was whether there was any food in the car that she was going to smell and come to find before we could get in.

The worst part was my wife - after a few seconds - ran after where the bear had went down to get a better look.

Sheesh. I grabbed the pepper spray, ran after her, grabbed her and got in the car. The excitement of seeing the bear just trumped her better judgment. I always joke about how she was trying to make me a widower three days into our marriage.

 

It funny how the mind works sometimes. I was in a homestead cabin on Takahula Lake in the Brooks Range of Alaska. My son was renting it. He had left in his supercub on floats and was flying a National Geographic Photographer around. Before he left we had cut some poles into about 15 to 20 foot lengths and threw them in the lake. While he was gone my job was to raft them up and tow them back to the cabin and cut and split them for firewood. The cabin was on a noll about 20 feet above the lake. One day I was carrying up some poles and as I got to the top of the hill and turned the corner, there was a black bear probably about 200 lbs. He looks like 400 lbs to me so usually if I divide by two it about right. He was only about five feet from me. I looked at him and he looked at me and turned and took off at a fast rate. As I laid down the poles, I thought "Boy you sure are taking this well". About that time one of the little squirrels that liked to throw pine cones down on the metal roof at 4 in the morning, barked at me. I jumped about three feet in the air. I think I was in shock. I went in the cabin and checked all the guns and hung the washtub near the top of the hill so I could bang on it to let bears know I was around. I have seen a few blacks down in Mason County when I was steelheading but nothing this close. Dick, W7WT

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. I had a grizzly encounter before my geocaching days, and I think that was probably the only time in my adult life where I can honestly say I was scared.

 

Wanna tell us about the Griz encounter?

 

Not much to it. We were in Glacier on our honeymoon, hiking. My wife had never been in grizzly bear country, so I briefed her about what to do if we had an encounter. I had pepper spray, we were wearing bells.

We were back to the car, putting our stuff in the trunk and changing footwear when a big sow bear came through the woods and onto the road about 15 feet in front of us while we were getting things back in the trunk. She stopped, looked at us for what felt like an eternity, but was probably only a few seconds, then continued on to the lake she was headed for breaking branches along the way. All I could think about was whether there was any food in the car that she was going to smell and come to find before we could get in.

The worst part was my wife - after a few seconds - ran after where the bear had went down to get a better look.

Sheesh. I grabbed the pepper spray, ran after her, grabbed her and got in the car. The excitement of seeing the bear just trumped her better judgment. I always joke about how she was trying to make me a widower three days into our marriage.

 

It funny how the mind works sometimes. I was in a homestead cabin on Takahula Lake in the Brooks Range of Alaska. My son was renting it. He had left in his supercub on floats and was flying a National Geographic Photographer around. Before he left we had cut some poles into about 15 to 20 foot lengths and threw them in the lake. While he was gone my job was to raft them up and tow them back to the cabin and cut and split them for firewood. The cabin was on a noll about 20 feet above the lake. One day I was carrying up some poles and as I got to the top of the hill and turned the corner, there was a black bear probably about 200 lbs. He looks like 400 lbs to me so usually if I divide by two it about right. He was only about five feet from me. I looked at him and he looked at me and turned and took off at a fast rate. As I laid down the poles, I thought "Boy you sure are taking this well". About that time one of the little squirrels that liked to throw pine cones down on the metal roof at 4 in the morning, barked at me. I jumped about three feet in the air. I think I was in shock. I went in the cabin and checked all the guns and hung the washtub near the top of the hill so I could bang on it to let bears know I was around. I have seen a few blacks down in Mason County when I was steelheading but nothing this close. Dick, W7WT

 

Heh, bet that got your adrenaline rushing!

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