Timothy-Treadwell
Timothy Treadwell | Biography

Quick Information

  • Full Name Timothy Treadwell
  • Nationality American
  • Birthplace Long Island, New York, USA
  • Birth Date April 29, 1957
  • Age At Death 46 yrs & 5 months
Grizzly Man

Timothy Treadwell | Biography

Environmentalist, Bear-enthusiast

Unsuccessful in acting, Timothy Treadwell became a drug addict. In order to get off the drugs, he spent 13 spring and summer camping at the Katmai National Park and Preserve, recording the habitat of Grizzly bear. He founded Grizzly People, a non-profit organization to protect bears from poachers, released a memoir 'Among Grizzlies: Living with Wild Bears in Alaska,' a collection of his journey from his school days to becoming an activist. He starred in a Discovery Channel program 'Grizzly Diaries: Watch, amazed, as he comes face-to-face with an 850-pound bear,' and appeared on the 'Late Show with David Letterman.' He and his girlfriend Huguenard were killed by a bear in their last expedition. After his death, the movie 'Grizzly Man' was released in 2005 on Treadwell's journey in the woods along with his original footage.


Treadwell was an American environmental activist, bear-enthusiast, and the key character of the movie 'Grizzly Man' of 2005. He was also the founder of the Grizzly People, an organization to protect bears.

Who is Timothy Treadwell?

Timothy Treadwell was an environmental activist, who had recorded his13year-long expedition with the wildlife of grizzly bears in the Katmai National Park and Preserve, Alaska.

Treadwell came from a middle-class family of Long Island. He migrated to California after high school and became interested in acting. After being unsuccessful in acting, he became an alcoholic and eventually became a drug addict.

Following a near-death accident with drugs, he decided to change himself and found a shoelace in nature. While on an expedition in Alaska, he came across a grizzly bear and fell in love with the animal. He then spent the rest of his spring and summer living in Alaska, recording their actual livelihood and befriending them alongside. In winter, he went to public sessions all over America, shared his experience, and raised funds.

By then, he had started a non-profit organization Grizzly People, to protect bears from poachers. He also released his memoir 'Among Grizzlies: Living with Wild Bears in Alaska', which was a collection of his journey from a high school diver to an environmental activist. He also starred on a Discovery Channel program, Grizzly Diaries: Watch, amazed, as he comes face-to-face with an 850-pound bear, showcasing his life with the bears.

Treadwell died in 2003 in his final expedition with his girlfriend Huguenard, where grizzly bears killed and ate both of them. A movie on his findings was released in 2005 named Grizzly Man, along with hundreds of hours of footage.

Early Life

Timothy Treadwell, originally Timothy William Dexter, was born on 29 April 1957 in Long Island, New York, to Carol Dexter and Val Dexter. He was the third of his five siblings.

Treadwell was a diving champion in high school and had also received a swimming scholarship for college education. But he moved to California at 19 to pursue something other than college.

In California, he adopted several accents, including Eastern London and Australian, that led him to change his name to Treadwell, evidently after an English ancestor. He also pursued a career in acting. Subsequently, he was listed as the second choice for the role of Woody to act in the television sitcom Cheers. Woody Harrelson later played it. Loss of that role affected him so much that Treadwell started to drink and do drugs.

"How close to the second I don't know, but that is what really destroyed him," said his father, Val Dexter, later in Treadwell's documentary. His mother Carol Dexter added, "I think he started drinking out there and just hanging out with the wrong people."

Treadwell first started doing drugs through friends. Later he began living with the dealers and slept with a loaded gun. He often overdosed on cocaine, heroin and was arrested twice for assault and illegally firing a gun. Once, when he was high on LSD, he nose-dived from the third floor of the building and landed, leaving a perfect imprint of his face, on the muddy earth. After that incident, he decided to get off drugs and wanted to find a remote place close to nature to rehabilitate. 

Career

Treadwell was an animal lover from a young age. Upon his friend's advice, he flew to Alaska to see bears. Treadwell used to act like grizzly bears in his childhood whenever he was terrified. So, when he saw a grizzly bear for the first time on his initial expedition to Alaska in 1989, he fell in love with them. His affection for bears made him stay away from drugs, Treadwell had mentioned it in his memoir. He compared his come across with the animal to meeting with his soul.

"The encounter was like looking into a mirror, I gazed into the face of a kindred soul, a being that was potentially lethal, but in reality was just as frightened as I was," he said.

Treadwell then spent 13 spring and summer fixtures along the Katmai Coast, camping out alone in the thick of bear habitat, purposefully seeking out the animals. He recorded countless footage of their habitat, which was unsuccessful in the initial days due to their threatening nature. In the course, he became an environmental activist, advocating for grizzly bears against poachers.

Treadwell also co-founded a non-profit organization Grizzly People, aiming to improve human knowledge on bears. After spending the spring and summer in Alaska, he spent the winter teaching the public about his findings and turning his enthusiasm for seeing bears into a mission. He gave free talk sessions at schools and events meanwhile raised funds for his non-profit organization through sponsors.

Further, Treadwell had put in a lot of effort to sell his footage and knowledge to television and film studios. He was a technical adviser on Brother Bear, an animated Disney picture, and filmed a part for Paramount Television's Wild Things Series. He was drawing the attention of celebrities such as Pierce Brosnan, and he also operated a large website on grizzlies.

Then in 1999, he starred in a Discovery Channel program Grizzly Diaries: Watch, amazed, as he comes face-to-face with an 850-pound bear. He also became a documentary subject to Dateline NBC and appeared on the Late Show with David Letterman.

Personal Life

Treadwell was in a relationship with Jewel Palovak, who co-authored his memoir about his experience in Alaska.

After breaking up with Palovak, he met Amie Huguenard in 1996. Treadwell met Huguenard in Boulder, Colorado, in 1996 at a photo presentation and talk he delivered on the University of Colorado. She was enthralled by his dedication and enthusiasm to his work then she subsequently wrote to him.

One event led to another and they got romantically connected. She then worked as a physician's assistant in Boulder, Colorado, and had completed her graduation from the University of Colorado and master's from the University of Alabama. Huguenard was a native of Indiana, who also felt at home while close to nature, just like Treadwell. Two summers before 2003, she had spent a couple of weeks in Alaska with Treadwell.

Death

Treadwell's final expedition in Alaska was in late September 2003, with his then-girlfriend Huguenard. At 2 p.m. of 6 October 2003, bodily remains of Treadmill and Huguenard were found near their campsite. Upon autopsy of the grizzly bear, which was shot by the state troopers while collecting the duo's remains, it was found that the contents in the bear's stomach showed human remains and traces of clothing.

Also, Treadwell's video recorder was retrieved from the site, and the last sounds of the duo fighting for life were found in it. The six-minute-long voice-recording revealed the circumstances behind their death and was evident enough to conclude their death by a bear attack. With no ammunition present with them, they fought the animal till their last breath.

At the time of their death, Treadwell was in his late 40s and Huguenard in her late 30s.

Movie After Death

Two years after their death in 2005, a documentary movie was released on his life, which consisted of pieces of his personal footages and narration of his journey. The film was titled Grizzly Man. It was written and directed by Werner Herzog.

The movie subjected Treadwell and Huguenard’s, heartbreaking slain of October 2003. Their advocacy to grizzly animal and their stay among the bears in an Alaskan National Park for 13 summers was recalled as an ultimate tragic and most extreme human-animal coexistence in the history of humanity.

Treadwell had curated his record in such a way that he aimed to produce his own movie in the future showcasing his natural ability to bond with bears. He had devoted over 13 years of his life and collected 35,000 hours’ worth of footage.  

Herzog was inspired by Treadwell’s story and collection which made him want to make the Grizzly Man in 2005.

He told in an interview that Treadwell's character made the film much more than a film about nature, "Treadwell is a very complex character full of doubts and self-aggrandization. Full of demons that haunt him and exhilaration and swings in mood, and seeing a mission that he finds himself into, and being almost paranoid for moments, and being very sane and very clear at others."

Along with that, Treadwell's camera had caught audio of his and Huguenard's incident at the time of their death. Herzog instantly decided not to include the material, both out of respect for the dead and also to avoid projecting a jaded image of the film. However, he did include his shot of listening to it in front of Treadwell's friend Palovak.

Later he admitted that he suggested Palovak delete the final footage of Treadwell and Hugenbard then eventually regretted his decision.

Books and Other Publications

Treadwell had published his memoir 'Among Grizzlies: Living with Wild Bears in Alaska' in 1997 with his then-girlfriend Jewel Palovak. It was his first publication and was a collection of his journey from a middle-class family to drug abuse, leading to his obsession over grizzlies and significant incidents during his expedition at the Katmai Park.

Then, a book on his expeditions, ‘Death in the Grizzly Maze: The Timothy Treadwell Story’ authored by Mike Lapinski, was published on 1 April 2005.

The book journey’s Treadwell’s known celebrity status and his girlfriend Huguenard’s liking for the wildlife and their subsequent killing by one or more brown bears in Alaska's Katmai National Park on the afternoon of 5 October 2003. It further eluded the terrifying and unsettling incident which had drawn international media attention and sparked a maelstrom of debate on the sustenance of humanity.

Followed by that, in 2017 Treadwell’s second book,  ‘Astronomy Adventures and Vacations: How to Get the Most Out of Astronomy in Your Leisure Time’ was published posthumously.

It consisted of over 100 ideas for astronomy and space-related activities from both casual local observation and far-flung destination visits. The book was a guideline that allowed amateur astronomers to make the most of their vacation time.

Further, this astronomy travel guide chronicled many different ways to enjoy the pastime of watching, as amateur astronomy was sometimes associated with seeing from one's own house or a nearby park, the book incorporated a much more sensational part of it. It also included an astronomical event into a vacation to fully fledge a specialist astronomy journey.

And then in 2020, his guide on swimming for general fitness and health was launched with the title, ‘Swim Prescription: The doctor-designed Program for Health and Longevity.'

Swim Prescription is proclaimed to be the go-to book for those who want to learn about the incredible health and lifespan advantages of swimming as a regular part of their fitness regimen. It discusses the many advantages of swimming, as well as the best ways to get started, dietary advice, how to create a personalized program, and much more.

Along with that, Treadwell’s guidelines on unlocking the power of swimming and making it accessible to people of all ages and fitness levels were encompassed from his experience of being a professional diver.  

Controversy

Treadwell not only gained popularity before and after his death due to his brave step to living among the bears, but he also became a topic of controversy.

More than a decade after his death, he is criticized by some because of his portrayal in Herzog's documentary Grizzly Man. With his floppy blond bowl-cut and baby voice, people felt he regularly made a fool of himself speaking to a 500-pound brown bear and appeared to be mentally ill.

Further, his actions were not universally praised. According to Katmai regulations, Brown bears should be viewed from a distance of at least 50 yards. But, Treadwell's personal recordings and professional productions featured him significantly closer to bears, and conservationists were upset and disturbed by it.

His attempt to find a home among the bears separating himself from the human community subsequently failed. He wanted to return to a normal life a few days before his death and arrived at an airport in Alaska to catch a flight home. However, an altercation with an obese airport employee, which he had recorded in the last pages of his diary, drove him back to the wilderness in a rage, with Huguenard by the side.

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