Timothy Treadwell | Biography
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.


Quick Information
  • Full Name Timothy Treadwell
  • Nationality American
  • Birthplace Long Island, New York, USA
  • Profession Environmentalist, Bear-enthusiast
  • Birth Date April 29, 1957
  • Age At Death 46 yrs & 5 months

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 his13-year-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 eaten 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 published his memoir 'Among Grizzlies: Living with Wild Bears in Alaska' in 1997 with his then-girlfriend Jewel Palovak. The book 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.

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. She worked as a physician's assistant in Boulder, Colorado. A native of Indiana, Huguenard also felt at home while close to nature, just like Treadwell. She completed her graduation from the University of Colorado and did masters from the University of Alabama.

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.

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.

Herzog 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."

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 controversies.

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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