Grizzly Man is Werner Herzog’s film about Timothy Treadwell, mostly using Treadwell’s own footage of his time living among grizzly bears (Ursus arctos horribilis) in Katmai National Park, Alaska. Treadwell spent each of thirteen summers up to 2003 mainly in two areas of the park where a community1 of grizzly bears lived and foraged. During the last three years of this stint, Treadwell went to the field with video cameras and produced quite a bit of footage. In 2003 he and his girlfriend, Amie Huguenard, were killed and mostly eaten by a bear.


I am writing this review of a film released in 2005 because I only now have seen it. There are three reasons that I did not watch this film earier, and they are important in contextualizing my comments so I’ll mention them: 1) I often watch movies years after they are released. In this case, this means that the reactions to the movie at the time are not fresh in my memory, or in most cases, even known to me. This is important because it means that I have the luxory of being selective in what I pay attention to in formulating my comments, which is very much my intention in this case. This is not a comprehensive review. 2) I avoided watching the film because I more or less accepted the common wisdom at the time (which is persistent today): This was a film about a crazy guy who taunted, by his presence, large carnivores until they finally ate him. As a person who has done the same thing (except the part about being eaten) though much less extensively (and with permission from the authorities and at a smaller scale), I find this story interesting, but also uninteresting, and thus not necessarily compelling enough to have pursued the film when it came out. As you will see below, I now realize that my assumption is incorrect. 3) The first Herzog film I ever saw was not a Herzog film, but rather, a film about a Herzog film, Burden of Dreams. This film made me dislike Herzog enough to avoid his other films. I usually don’t decide what films to watch based on my opinion of the director or actors, but there are limits. Having seen Grizzley Man, I like Herzog a bit better.

Much of the documentary consists of footage showing Treadwell filming himself talking to the camera about bears, about himself and bears, about his knowledge of and interest in bears vis-a-vis his work traveling around to schools teaching about bears, and his opinions about the National Park service, on whose land he resided (not entirely legally) for these visits. He discussed his own alcoholism and how being in the wilderness had more or less cured him of this. (Or at least he implies this.) He repeatedly talks about how dangerous what he is doing is, and how he could be eaten by a bear at any time, but he also talks about how he knows how to handle them and how it is impossible for him to be eaten by them. There are a handful of scenes in Herzog’s film, and I assume that this represents most of the better available examples, of Treadwell interacting very closely with some bear or another, and some of those interactions could be called (but probably really aren’t) “close calls.”

One gets the impression that it was difficult to set these shots up, especaily when Treadwell was working alone. He would set a camera up on a tripod with a bear (or something) off in the distance, and position himself in front of the bear (or whatever) and do a take. He’d have some sort of message. He’d finish the take, and having delivered the message he’d do it again. Each time the message was delivered differently. In some cases (and we don’t know how much Herzog selected for this) the deliveries would become increasingly dogmatic or frenetic or angry or otherwise emotion-filled. Late in the documentary Treadwell records one of his last sequences in which he talks about the park service in less than complementary terms. His dialog seems almost like it was written by David Mamet. If you fucking know the fuck what I fucking mean. Treadwell’s anger at the Park Service is epic.

Another theme of this film that I find fascinating is his relationship with a “family” of foxes. Sometime near the beginning of his decade plus sequence of Alaskan forays, he took in (or befriended, or fed scraps to until it stopped being scared) a red fox cub, who then grew up and had more cubs, who were also friendly. These foxes acted as domestic dogs in his presence, hanging out with him, being petted by him, and so on. I can only guess that he fed them. One scene has him mourning over the disembodied head of one of the fox family’s cubs, the victim of getting a bit too close to a pack of wolves.

Something that I remember from when the documentary first came out was fear, loathing, and controversy over the possibility that Herzog would use the video documentation of Treadwell’s death in the film. He didn’t. The last year or so that Treadwell was in the bush, and possibly for earlier years, he was not entirely alone, but had a girlfirend and helper with him. There is one interesting scene used by Herzog when Treadwell is offloading supplies from the float plane that brought him there every year, and a female comes into the shot to help with the work. He shoo’s her out of the shot and reminds her the he is “supposed to be alone” so she can’t be seen in the film. Anyway, Treadwell and his girlfriend, Amie Huguenard, were in camp when the deadly bear attack happened. Someone had the presence of mind (as it were) to turn on a video camera, but the lens cap never came off. We do not hear the audio in Herzog’s documentary. Instead, we get this:

1) The medical examiner who handled the remains describes the recording;
2) A woman who is Treadwell’s friend and former girlfriend and Herzog sit together while Herzog listens to part of it on a head set. Eventually Herzog tells her that although this tape is hers to do with what she will, she should never listen to it, and she should destroy it.
3) Herzog’s voiceover describes what is in it.

I wont’ describe those details to you, but it is gruesome.

Now, here is the most important thing that I observed in the film, but before I tell you what it is I must ask you to promise to read the caveat that follows. Promise? OK.

According to everybody I’ve spoken to about this, including people who knew some of the individuals in the film, including but not limited to Treadwell, and individuals not affiliated with the Park Service but who have some inside knowledge, and according to the general knowledge of the events (yes, even including the version of the Wikipedia page I consulted) Treadwell spent some 13 years hanging around with a community of bears and one day one of the bears ate him. But, according to Herzog, Treadwell spent some 13 years hanging around with a community of bears, then left the field at the end of his 13 years to go back to the Lower Forty-Eight. Then, something bad happened related to an airplane ticket, and a frustrated Treadwell and his girlfriend returned to the field. Even before they first left the field, many of the bears in the community he had gotten to know (and who had gotten to know him) over the years had gone off to hibernate. Then, during the time they were away from the site messing around with airplane tickets, the rest of the bears went off to hibernate. When they returned, according to Herzog citing Treadwell, there was an older male itinerant bear hanging around, which he proceeded to film. It seems that this bear was underfed as it was going through some serious effort to get at some hard to recover salmon remains.

Some time later, that bear, one that Treadwell had not habituated to himself (but one that was known to the Park Service, having been knocked down and labeled decades earlier) killed and ate him and his girlfriend.

You can see why this makes a difference. The claim can simply not be made, if this is accurate, that Treadwell hung around with some bears for several years who finally got tired of him or got hungry ir got annoyed and ate him. Rather, to be honest about this, given the above outlined series of events, Treadwell actually successfully did what he claimed to do. Then, an unhabituated bear of a more rogue disposition did him in and ate a more or less innocent bystander as well.

What I find interesting is that this detail is unacceptable to most who hear about it. It is simply not posssible for many to give up on the idea that Treadwell did something stupid and inappropriate and got his comuppance for it. However, that is not a reasonable stance, nor is it necessary. It is perfectly reasonable to claim that Treadwell did several things that were stupid and/or inappropriate. Regardless of his seeming sucess, he had no business hanging around with this community of bears. He violated numerous park service rules. He habituated two (or more) generations of wild fox. And then, he bothered a bear that ate him, and got his girlfriend killed a long the way.

There is no need to perpetuate the lie that his own bears turned on him to vilify him to one’s heart’s content.

Of course, this may not be a lie (or, put more mildly, it may not be a misconception). I’m told by some very good sources that it is not. Is Herzog wrong? Did Herzog change the story? Or did Herzog simply notice a nuance not previously noticed? I do not know.

A second criticism of Treadwell often leveled is that he was crazy, or more specifically, delusional or bipolar. Maybe. Even probably. One sees this in Herzog’s film, even if it is not stressed by the narration. However, I want to give Treadwell a bit of a break in this regard. First, yes, he ‘went bush’ in a big way, but so do many people who spend that much time in the bush, either alone or almost alone, and having frequent traumatic encounters (which one tends to have when hanging around with deadly predators and such). But there is a second element added here: Treadwell was filming himself, and took the liberty to talk to himself via the lens. Alone, or more or less alone, we see his inner voice coming out. That inner voice is manic, often angry, belies deep confusion. He is a poster child for why people who do long term remote fieldwork should receive some special training in advance if possible. But in the end, his expressions and commentary and manic ranting may not be as different from what you or I would do under similar circumstances, whether you want to believe that or not. (I may or may not believe it myself.) Or, at least, the gulf one might imagine between Treadwell’s rants and the calm continence of the civilized and urbane blog-reader may not be as broad as you, dear reader, might be entirely comfortable with.

I mentioned a caveat. The caveat is this, and I’ve alluded to it above: More than one source with connections close to the events assures me that the bear that ate the Treadwell Party was one of those he had partly habituated and hung around with for years. Herzog says otherwise. I have a call in with Herzog but apparently his agent feels no need to get back to me. (This is a problem when Big Famous Director makes a documentary … it’s not really a documentary if the maker is not accountable for what is in it, at least to some degree!)

I’m hoping my contacts and sources, maybe Herzog himself, will come up with some sort of clarification. If that happens, I’ll let you know.

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1I’m using the word “community” as an informal term to refer to the presumably fluctuating group of bears that habitually live and forage in a given area. It appears that from year to year a more or less similar set of bears lived in the two habitats Treadwell spent time in.

Comments

  1. #1 mingr
    April 4, 2011

    Delusional or bipolar? No: stupid and delusional, at least with respect to wild animals.

    When I was young, before the ‘Greens’ made it impossible, my family were trappers. My father brought home a very young raccoon kitten. We bottle fed it and kept it as a pet. When it was about a year old, it essentially became wild and vicious, and we let it go. (It was never really capitve, but we sort of evicted it).

    Maybe somebody has been able to keep a pet raccon for more than a year, but I doubt there is any certainty that that can be be. There is a reason we have certain animals which are domesticated and ones which are not.

    This idiot Treadwell, and likely his girlfriend, had an incomplete and, frankly, stupid, misconception about wild animals. It doesn’t matter worth a damn whether his bear friend of a bear stranger ate him. His friendly relationship with these animals was just an unlikely prelude to his eventual death. It was just a matter of time.

    A grizzley bear (or polar bears, which are basically the same thing) is a walking breathing killing machine, not a dog or a cat. There is no fault in them for that: that is what they do, and they do it very well. People who know about these animals and grow up with them in their environment (natives, etc.), don’t try to be their friends. They try avoid them and if they can’t they try make sure they are well enough armed to survive an attack.

    If some clown from Malibu thinks otherwise, then he is stupid and delusional. Sometimes being stupid gets you killed. Its a Darminian thing.

    Hopefully the Treadwell story will give wannabe bear harasser second thoughts.

  2. #2 James
    April 4, 2011

    I viewed this film a few years ago and agree that Herzog makes viewers more sympathetic towards Treadwell than they (likely) were prior to seeing the film. But that’s kind of the goal of documentarians – to get the audience to side with them on a particular issue.
    Grizzly Man’s behavior was reminiscent of Christopher McCandless’ in “Into the Wild,” another film about an itinerant American.

  3. #3 MadScientist
    April 4, 2011

    With other animals such as the domesticated dog, it is not so unusual for a well-treated dog to bite people it knows. Not too long ago there was a report that a dog had eaten its owner (after the owner expired, according to the coroner’s report). Why should we assume that a hungry bear wouldn’t eat the guy simply because the bear knew him?

    Perhaps the bears had just grown tired of seeing him around – you might say they could no longer bear him. I wonder if his ghost would grudge no bear.

  4. #4 Thisbe
    April 4, 2011

    I watched this movie once, and then immediately watched it again.
    The next day I watched it a third time; it was that weird and fascinating to me.

    The thing that was the most interesting to me was not one that you’ve mentioned, but one that I think you’ll like:

    Treadwell has apparent success habituating – or making friends with, depending on how you look at it – a family of foxes, but notable lack of success with the bears.
    To me, this is not a difference between foxes and bears; it’s a statement about how humans have become “domesticated” to canids over the years, without becoming domesticated to bears.
    (Inasmuch as “domestication” can be thought of as a process by which two species become better at interacting with each other, and not something that is done to one species by the other.)

    Treadwell can look at the fox and have a pretty good idea what that fox is thinking, because humans in general do a pretty okay job of reading canine body language. Whether or not that’s innate is immaterial; everyone grows up knowing dogs and seeing them on TV and whatnot.
    Treadwell looks at the bear and tells himself what the bear is thinking, but we really have no way of knowing if he’s right.

    I have observed this myself, in the difference between working with domesticated species and with species that are captive but wild. The wild ones, I look at them and I don’t have any idea who they are.

  5. #5 CalderaGal
    April 4, 2011

    Having covered the TT story since TT started his camping trips to Alaska. I’m one of the people who believes Herzog is wrong and that TT ‘knew’ the bear that killed him and his girlfriend from previous encounters. I was surprised to see how Herzog edited the tapes and I have the uncut version of his production. But even if you decide to believe Herzog, and TT had not met the bear previously, so what? He was still invading the bear’s space and the potential for habituation was there, and perhaps had already started. Several people like myself who have long advocated for people to let animals remain wild saw the uncut tape and raised hell about it. This is why I believe Herzog manipulated it to make it seem as if the bear was not one of TT’s usual ‘friends.” Of course, those of us who hollered wanted Herzog’s production to be critical of TT. Also you have to remember that Herzog HAD to create the production he did because that’s what the television producers wanted to show the public. That in itself is a long story. The media generally supports the touchy-feely approach to wild animals. For more info Chuck Bartlebaugh at the Center for Wildlife Information. He tracks that stuff.
    Elizabeth Laden
    Island Park News

  6. #7 CalderaGal
    April 4, 2011

    SCREENS FROM A MAUL

    By JAMIE KELLY
    of the Missoulian

    `Grizzly Man’ tells story of man who walked – and died – among Alaska brown bears.

    Preview:>

    `GRIZZLY MAN,’ documentary about the life and death of Timothy Treadwell

    Timothy Treadwell said it would never happen, but if it did, he’d be proud to end up as a pile of bear scat.

    The self-described grizzly lover was sure that he was one with the giant bears, and for more than a decade he chose to walk among them. They would never turn on him, he figured; they were his friends and he theirs. He told them he loved them. He petted their heads.

    But in 2003, on a cold fall day in Alaska’s Katmai National Park, the 46-year-old Treadwell did in fact become lunch – as did his girlfriend, Amie Huguenard. The bears he claimed to love so much attacked, mauled and partially devoured the two. Disturbingly, the audio of the attack was caught on tape.

    An ironic end? A fitting end? A tragic end?

    A little of each?

    It depends on your view of nature – and human nature. But everybody, it seems, has an opinion about Treadwell’s ventures and his demise. Which is why “Grizzly Man,” a Lions Gate documentary, created such a stir at the Sundance Film Festival in January and won the Alfred P. Sloan award.

    “That’s really the story. You have to come to terms with how you feel about this guy,” said Louisa Nye, film coordinator for the Whitefish Theatre Co. “Was he way off base or onto something as far as understanding these big, wild animals?”

    It was Nye’s fascination with the film that led her to secure its post-Sundance theatrical premiere in Whitefish on Thursday, a full four months before its nationwide release and debut on the Discovery Channel. Shortly before Sundance, she had read about the documentary in the festival’s guide, and when she saw its success there, she knew she had to be the first to get it.

    “I asked a friend of mine at Sundance if he could secure it for our theater and lock it down,” said Nye. “Lions Gate was going to open it in the summer. I kept gently nagging and saying, `I think this could be really great.’ ”

    Directed and narrated by the award-winning German filmmaker Werner Herzog, “Grizzly Man” neither paints Treadwell as crazy nor sympathizes with him, Nye said. Through interviews with his friends and family, it sketches a portrait of a man convinced he had a special connection with nature that shielded him from its dangers. Interwoven with those interviews is footage shot by Treadwell during his years among the bears.

    “One of Herzog’s trademarks is he likes to get into the mind of whomever he’s documenting, finding what drives them,” said Nye. “He does that very well.”

    It’s left for you to decide if Treadwell was a lunatic or a tragic figure.

    Chuck Bartlebaugh, of Missoula, met Treadwell on a couple of occasions. As executive director of the National Be Bear Aware and Wildlife Stewardship Campaign, he feared from the beginning that Treadwell’s antics were sending the wrong message about wildlife to Americans.

    “He was acting in my belief in an inappropriate manner, and he was misleading the public,” said Bartlebaugh.

    No thanks to Treadwell and others, he said, millions of Americans now think it’s perfectly OK to approach and feed wild animals.

    “Currently there is over $100 million being spent to give the public the impression it’s OK to approach, follow, interact with, touch and feed wildlife,” Bartlebaugh said. “It is virtually just about everyone. It’s become the up close and personal generation of wildlife.”

    Is Bartlebaugh in favor of making a movie about the man’s life? It depends on whether it glosses over his faults, he said.

    “If it explains that A, he did not have permission from the National Park Service to do what he was doing, and B, that they were trying to stop him from doing what he was doing, then yes. If it makes him out to be a researcher, then no.”

    In Nye’s view, “Grizzly Man” is balanced.

    “I think it’s very objective. I felt badly for him because of what happened, but you come away understanding how misguided he was. Because no matter what you think you know about this big creature next to you, it’s a wild animal and they should stay that way. You’re just tempting fate by trying to call them your friends.”

    The film can be frightening. Some scenes are almost unbearable to watch as you witness Treadwell approaching – even touching – animals that have the power to knock your head off with one well-placed swat.

    “In one scene, he’s touching a grizzly on the nose to get his camera’s light meter right,” Nye said. “You’re just going, `Oh my God.’ ”

    The bodies of Treadwell and Huguenard were found by an air taxi pilot who was flying in to pick up the couple. Alongside their bodies was a video camera that aurally recorded the gruesome attack.

    On the tape, Treadwell urges Huguenard to hit the grizzly that was attacking him.

    That recording is not present in the film. Herzog listened to it and decided it was too disturbing.

    “It wouldn’t take the story any farther, so he did not use it in the film,” said Nye.

    On hand at the premiere on Thursday will be a panel of bear experts who will discuss the film after its showing. Also present will be some executives from Lions Gate Films.

    You may walk out of the theater disturbed, angry – all the polarizing emotions that Treadwell was capable of evoking in life, and now in death.

    But perhaps the truth is more prosaic than all of that. As Nye so aptly put it: “Treadwell was such an oddball.”

    Entertainer editor Jamie Kelly can be reached at 523-5254 or at jkelly@missoulian.com .

    Additional Articles

    1. “Grizzly makes grisly”
    Debra J Sanders
    San Francisco Chronicle, (SF Gate) August 28, 2005

    2. “Grizzly Man” Movie Spurs New Looks at a Grisly Death”
    James Owen
    for National Geographic News August 12, 2005

    3. “Grizzly Man” – (Printer Friendly Version)
    Posted: Friday, Apr 01, 2005 – 08:44:02 am PST
    By JIM MANN
    The Daily Inter Lake

    4. Bear Activist and Companion Mauled to Death in Alaska
    Associated Press / May 8, 2004
    Wolf Song of Alaska – News and Current Events

    5. Treadwell: Bear Film Prompts Copycat Concerns
    Jeannette J. Lee / Associated Press / Anchorage Daily News / August 14, 2005
    Wolf Song of Alaska – News and Current Events

  7. #8 TTT
    April 4, 2011

    Treadwell’s monologues would be depressing enough even if he hadn’t died. He goes out into the wilderness to “protect” the grizzly bears. From what? And how, all by his unarmed self?

  8. #9 Greg Laden
    April 4, 2011

    Thanks for the comments, everybody. Keep ‘em coming. Very helpful.

    It matters a great deal if the bear that killed and ate them was on of his habituated bears vs. a novel bear. Don’t worry, everybody you can still hate his guts. He still did things wrong. He almost certainly habituated the bears, just as he habituated the foxes, and that is detrimental. But if he was not killed by a habituated bear than the simple truth is that he was a guy who was eaten by a grizz primarily because he either intruded on his space, or possibly more likely in this case, was food. He could have walked away at the end of that 13th season alive and never been eaten by a bear and the wrongness of what he did would not be reduced or affected in any way.

    So, to be as clear as possible, whether or not Treadmill was eaten by a bear he knew, a bear he did not know, or an alien from outer space has no real impact on any of the arguments about what he did, other than one small detail which is not that important.

    It may be, in fact, that if a human hangs around with a grizz long enough, the chance that that human will be killed by the griz may go down somewhat. But we already knew that. Humans have been keeping, training, etc. brown bears for centuries. To make it work, one has to declaw, drug, chain up and otherwise treat badly the bears, and even then the humans get eaten now and then. So, Treadwell’s activities don’t tell us anything new. Also, his activities are not clearly enough documented for us to be sure.

    What is more interesting to me than that some asshole hung around in bear country long enough that he got eaten by the bears is not what he did. Rather, what is interesting is how important it is to people that a bear that he knew ate him. That gives the process some extra powerful magic, or some deeper meaning, or something. If the bear was one of “his” then Herzog MUST have known that and chose to be dishonest to change the story. If the bear was NOT one of his than a lot of people at the Park Service are in on creating and maintaining a lie for some important reason.

    If some guy gets eaten by a bear after haning around in bear country that is not interesting (though hanging around for 13 years and not getting eaten is mildly interesting). The powerful societal demand to vilify him in a particularity way by controlling the story about which bear ate him is the stuff of human mythology and culture. THAT is interesting, regardless of which bear at him, and knowing for certain the actual truth will never make that less interesting.

    That, plus, as CalderaGirl point out, the interface between the production of popular culture and the nature of the myth itself.

    Also, it should be mentioned that Treadwell was all about protecting the bears from poachers. But, there really is no bear poaching in that region at all. Yet another bit of myth building.

  9. #10 Riman Butterbur
    April 4, 2011

    You don’t have to tell me that you never know what to expect from a wild animal. I’ve lived for 70 years among humans.

  10. #11 daedalus2u
    April 4, 2011

    Bears are not social animals. Bears have not evolved the capacity to be social animals. Bears do not have the capacity to be social animals. Any social capacity that you think a bear has is because you are anthropomorphizing the bear because you watched too many Disney cartoons.

    Bears cannot be socialized because they don’t have the neuronal structures to support social behaviors. That is why bears don’t have facial muscles to communicate via facial movements. They don’t have the neural structures to activate the muscle structures they don’t have to communicate the thoughts they don’t have the neural structures to think. The idea that animals like bears are human-like is due to human projection.

    Dogs, horses, and essentially all herd animals are social animals and so do have the ability to communicate.

  11. #12 CalderaGal
    April 4, 2011

    It comes down to this. I share a portion of the greater Yellowstone ecosystem with grizzly bears. If I have a Timothy Treadwell wannabe neighbor who feeds grizzlies, I worry. If an habituated bear wanders onto my property and sees my little grandson, or darling nephew, or – hey- me, and decides we’d make a great meal….. the Idaho expression for that would be, “That’s all she wrote.” Let’s do what is needed to keep wild animals wild – grizzlies, black bears, wolves, coyotes, wolverines, etc. We share space with them but we should not try to possess them. Chuck Bartlebaugh (see above) and other wildlife advocates have worked hard to explain this to people, but unfortunately so many others have tried to convince us that we can have relationships with wildlife and not be harmed. Maybe in the short term. but not in the long term.The SCIENCE tells us that wild animals do not “befriend” humans. The grizzlies TT encountered were well fed – that makes a difference because their natural food sources were satisfying them and they did not need to seek new food sources like human garbage. Here in GYE, there are times when grizzlies have a hard time finding food – the wild trout, whitebark pine nuts, marmots, huckleberry populations/crops may be down. Human garbage and “treats” such as pet food then become a food source. You all know the rest of the story. Please try to understand what people who live close to wild predators experience. We want the animals to remain wild because we respect the animals and desire our own safety. The mainstream media ignores us when they glorify the TT’s of the world.

  12. #13 MadScientist
    April 5, 2011

    I’m all opposed to feeding the damned bears because like all other animals I’d watched in the wild (various birds, squirrels, dogs, cats, humans, deer, pigs, etc) they develop a sense of entitlement and become aggressive when they see someone who has food and won’t give. I figure if it’s an evolutionarily linked trait and it’s exhibited by birds, then it must be a trait shared by our common ancestor with birds, which means it’s a trait that’s a few hundred million years old. It may not be an evolutionary trait, or it may be a coincidentally evolved trait in birds and mammals, but it does appear to be readily trained behavior. Short story: don’t feed any damned wild animal (unless perhaps you know what you’re doing and you’re looking after it and plan to release it to the wild and take care not to habituate it).

  13. #14 Greg Laden
    April 5, 2011

    The grizzlies TT encountered were well fed – that makes a difference because their natural food sources were satisfying them and they did not need to seek new food sources like human garbage.

    I also wonder if it matters that they are concentrated in a resource rich area (two areas, actually) … their relatively high level of the bear version of xenophobia would have been attenuated because they were forced to be around so many other bears, so while there were probably a lot of tense interaction between individual bears the likelihood of escalation would have been reduced. So, the two main reasons to kill Treadwell, hunger and territorial imperative, were both reduced.

    When he returned from the aborted attempt to leave Alaska (assuming that this story is accurate) any bear left in the area, one of “his” or not, would have started to ramp up the territorial response (and i use the word territorial loosely here, the term is loaded) and any late foraging bears are by definition extra hungry. So he passed from a state of minimum (but not at all zero) chance of deadly attack to a state of much higher probability.

  14. #15 mingr
    April 5, 2011

    “If the bear was one of “his” then Herzog MUST have known that and chose to be dishonest to change the story. If the bear was NOT one of his than a lot of people at the Park Service are in on creating and maintaining a lie for some important reason.”

    I don’t really see the distinction. I understand why Herzog would lie – documentary film makers lie all the time and, unless he decided to tell the story of somebody stupid enough enough to believe he could befriend bears (not an interesting story at all), it would make perfect sense for him to lie.

    I don’t understand why the park service would care at all whether the bear is a friend or stranger bear. They are far more likely to tell the truth. The horror (I actually find it kinda funny) of what happpened is not changed much either way. I doubt that if it was a stranger bear the park service would say “beware of grizzlies, unless you have known them for a dozen or so years”. The message is probably stay away from giant, fierce top predators, regardless of your delusions about nature.

    So, documentary film makers lie, journalists lie, priests lie, politicians lie, and environmentalists lie. They all lie. They lie, usually, because they can justify their lies to themselve on the basis of a some sort of ‘higher good’.

    When I first heard this story, the question of which bear ate him was moot. I called my wife over to watch the TV hit and laughed the whole time.

    Seriously, stupid can be terminal. Its nature’s way.

  15. #16 peicurmudgeon
    April 5, 2011

    I think that whether or not the bear was one of his habituated bears or a novel bear is irrelevant, According to the CDC, in the US in 2007, 108 people died as a result of injuries from cows. In 2008, there were 23 fatal dog attacks.

    As an ex-dairy farmer, I am very well aware of the dangers posed by working with large domesticated herbivorous animals as well domesticated carnivores (dogs, cats) and omnivores (pigs).

    I imagine that living in proximity with a large predatory animal such as a grizzly bear would greatly increase the chances of a fatal attack. Obviously, in this case the probability was 100.

    As was pointed out above, the media, but especially groups such as PETA have spread the concept of wild animals as being ‘cuddly’ rather than dangerous.

  16. #17 Greg Laden
    April 5, 2011

    Perhaps I’m being too meta. If you only want to know certain limited things, correct, it does not matter. If you are after more, it certainly does. Perhaps because I’m someone who studies human-animal interaction that I wish to know the more esoteric… but, consider this: T. Treadwell demonstrated that grizzly bears are not as dangerous as most people think they are because he hung around with them for two or three months a year for 13 years. No one is disputing the fact that for something like 20 or 30 months he camped in sight of them, within their foraging areas and frequently approached them and was never fatally attacked. No matter how dead he got on the final day, he showed that people can more or less ignore the bear warning signs at Yellowstone pretty much like one can ignore when a test pilot dies in a plane crash after several years of living on the edge when one is considering getting on a commercial flight.

    Now, we diverge into two different questions. a) If that is true, then is it OK to habituate bears? Answer: No. See comments above by CalderaGirl for details; and b) if the bear that ate him was NOT one of the habituated bears, is it not the case that wild brown bears in Alaska, Montana, wherever they may be should be considered dangerous because of incidents like this? Answer: Yes. If he was eaten by a wild bear that he had never seen before and whom he bothered, then he was eaten exactly like many others are eaten, right down to the interesting detail that the bear did not attack him right away, but rather, waited until he was gone then stalked and killed him. Treadwell suffered a pretty typical bear death, and thus becomes just one more reason for people to respect these bears. His 13 years of mucking around in a rather odd situation is not relevant to that question at all.

    (Or, he was killed by a bear he had habituated. Either way, bears are dangerous and he did something stupid.)

    No, I’m pretty sure that people have a need for this particular bear to be either a habituated bear or a rogue bear for one reason or another, and thus it matters a great deal as to which it is. Does the difference affect sensible wild bear policy? I can see no possible way it would. But, the park service and/or Herzog recognize the value of rhetoric (but for different purposes) especially when something is scary (which is a tool for the rhetorician, obviously) and especially when people are not fully engaged and thus not paying complete attention (as was the case with me before I saw the film and made simplistic assumptions about what had happened).

  17. #18 Mark P
    April 5, 2011

    I understand what you’re getting at, but I wonder exactly how much difference there really would be between a bear that is “habituated” and one that is not. I can see in an intuitive way that there would be a difference, but I don’t trust my intuition in a case like this. My intuition doesn’t really extend far beyond the behavior of humans and dogs. We have domesticated cats (maybe habituated is a better word even here) and I cannot predict when one will run from me (not in play), and when one will come to me and let me pet it. Surely bears are even less predictable. Can you reliably predict the behavior of a bear given the fact that many hikers and campers in bear country encounter bears without being attacked? With 13 years’ experience at much closer range, TT apparently could not.

    I understand that the bear in question attacked, or at least charged, people when they came to investigate, and it had to be shot. Is that the case? If so, perhaps this bear had some other issues besides being or not being habituated.

  18. #19 daedalus2u
    April 5, 2011

    The reason people need this bear to be one or the other is so they can rationalize to themselves that this won’t happen to them. One group because they would never allow bears to become habituated to them and would never be around bears long enough so the bears would be habituated. The other group would only be around bears that had been habituated, so the bear that is their friend wouldn’t eat them.

    It is the psychological reason that people always blame the victims of rape, of robbery, of assault, of domestic violence. They need to have the illusion that whatever bad thing happened wouldn’t happen to them because they do this magic thing that prevents it. What ever the magic thing is, it is what distinguishes “us” from “them”. “They” are the ones that bad things happen to, and those bad things happen because they are not like “us”. It is a way of “othering” so one doesn’t feel as much empathy for the victims and don’t need to identify with those victims or worry about being a victim themselves.

  19. #20 Greg Laden
    April 5, 2011

    I understand that the bear in question attacked, or at least charged, people when they came to investigate, and it had to be shot. Is that the case?

    According to the film, a handful of rangers opened fire the moment they saw the bear. By that description, I’d have to say no, not likely. But this may be one of those stories where there is more than one view.

    I’m increasingly liking my hypothesis that Treadwell was not eaten during his forays because all the bears had increased attack thresholds owing to their communal activities, and higher resource abundance, and that the bear late in the season, known to him or not, would not have.

    Which, again, is why it matters. It is not helpful to assume or claim that animal behavior is utterly random and unknowable .,… however, I do agree with your point; on a case by case basis it might as well be. Which is why one SHOULD pay attention to the signs at the camp ground in Yellowstone!

  20. #21 Greg Laden
    April 5, 2011

    …people always blame the victims of rape, of robbery, of assault, of domestic violence. They need to have the illusion that whatever bad thing happened wouldn’t happen to them because they do this magic thing that prevents it…

    Good point.

  21. #22 Mingr
    April 5, 2011

    “T. Treadwell demonstrated that grizzly bears are not as dangerous as most people think they are because he hung around with them for two or three months a year for 13 years.”

    No, he did not. He may have demonstrated that it is possible to ‘hang around’ certain bears for a certain period of time without being eaten and that’s about it. Its no different than Siegfried and Roy showing you can play games with certain tigers for a certain period of time.

    Does this mean tigers are “not as dangerous as most people think they are”? No, tigers are goddamned dangerous. Bears are goddamned dangerous. Anybody who knew anything (let alone who knew anything about bears) would (and did) predict he would be killed. He was killed. QED.

    I have had one encounter with bears: a mother and two cubs at about 20 meters. I had a 7mm magnum in my hands – loaded – with my thumb on the safety and my finger on the trigger. My brother was with me. He had a 7mm magnun. We didn’t say a word, but he adopted the identical posture.

    Momma did not attack – they looked at us for a while and then backed away. Believe me, I would not conclude from that encounter that the next time I’ll shoulder the rifle because bears are “not as dangerous as most people think they are” based up that encounter.

    Bears can kill people. Bears do kill people. Bears are *really* dangerous. Do not screw with them.

  22. #23 Mark P
    April 5, 2011

    “It is not helpful to assume or claim that animal behavior is utterly random and unknowable…”

    Agreed. My problem, shared by many, is that I personally do not have the tools to predict the behavior of many different species, other than in trivial cases. The behavior of animals must be predictable to members of the same species and so, in principle, humans should be able to learn how to predict behavior. I assume that is why bear “experts” give advice on what to do to avoid bear attacks and what to do if actually attacked. But since TT had plenty of opportunity to observe and presumably learn about bear behavior, the fact that he was killed by a bear indicates that his understanding was not perfect, and thus us true idiots should just steer clear. Or, alternatively, his knowledge was perfect but incomplete, and his encounter with the bear that killed him was outside the range of circumstances about which he understood. But, apparently, he did not recognize it as such.

    One site (http://www.yellowstone-bearman.com/Tim_Treadwell.html) talks about how TT and his girlfriend might have avoided the attack if they had recognized certain behaviors that the author thinks are well understood. At another web site (http://www.katmaibears.com/timothytreadwell3.htm) the author speculates that the bear the rangers killed was not actually the bear that killed the two, despite the fact that it had eaten them. A contemporary news report (http://www.seattlepi.com/default/article/Grizzly-mauls-kills-a-bear-expert-1126392.php) indicates that rangers actually killed two bears at the site, one of which was a younger, aggressive bear. That tends to confirm the speculation that a younger bear might have killed the two but an older, larger bear ate the bodies.

    As to people wanting to believe one story or the other, that behavior seems predictable enough. People want the story to conform to their idea of how the world works. If the world works the way you want it to, it makes the world a much safer and more pleasant place.

  23. #24 Greg Laden
    April 5, 2011

    Its no different than Siegfried and Roy showing you can play games with certain tigers for a certain period of time.

    That’s a good way of putting it. I agree completely with that.

    Anybody who knew anything (let alone who knew anything about bears) would (and did) predict he would be killed. He was killed.

    Nope. In the Herzog version that is not true. He was not killed by the bears he hung around with (amazingly). If the Herzog version is wrong, and the CalderaGirl version is correct, then I would defy anyone today to claim with a straight face that they would expect at the outset that he would have lasted 13 years. I could be wrong. Maybe we can find a quote from someone back then saying “Hell, that’s the dumbest thing I’ve heard of … that guy won’t last fifteen years out there with those Grizzly bears!”

    (There remains another possibility, of course … that he really didn’t spend 13 full seasons living where he said he lived.)

    Momma did not attack – they looked at us for a while and then backed away.

    Well, there you go! Treadwell was right, and he did it without the firearms!

    Anyway, chance are you had far more encounters with bears that that, but you just didn’t know it.

  24. #25 Greg Laden
    April 5, 2011

    Mark P: If there were not three, maybe more, conflicting accounts of the basic facts of an event on Federal land investigated by peace officers and a coroner, then it wouldn’t be as good myth-building material!

  25. #26 Mingr
    April 5, 2011

    “Anybody who knew anything (let alone who knew anything about bears) would (and did) predict he would be killed. He was killed.

    Nope. In the Herzog version that is not true. He was not killed by the bears he hung around with (amazingly). If the Herzog version is wrong, and the CalderaGirl version is correct, then I would defy anyone today to claim with a straight face that they would expect at the outset that he would have lasted 13 years.”

    That is not my point. Lets say I go into a Taliban village. People would say ‘man you are going to get killed’. But I make friends with the guys in the village. They realize I am ok, they give me things, etc. Then one of two things happen: some young guy I know decides, nah – he’s an infidel, and kills me with an axe. Or, perhaps, I complete stranger walks into the village and says ‘WTF – an infidel! and sprays me with his AK-47. Either way I am dead. I am dead because I did something really stupid which had a high probability of getting me killed and it did. Maybe if I had left a day earlier I could make a documentary about how Taliban are ‘just party animals’ (I believe a quote from Treadwell I read somewhere), and somebody would believe me and try do the same and get killed because, guess what, Taliban are dangerous, even if some idiot from Malibu says otherwise.

    In any event, those bears I saw were a pretty impressive sight. So impressive I forgot to take a picture. But I’m still glad I had the gun.

  26. #27 Greg Laden
    April 5, 2011

    I tend to leave the gun home and keep the camera handy, though most of my large carnivore experience is with lions, hyenas, leopards, etc. I’m sure lions are more dangerous than bears, but the rest of them are pretty wimpy.

    Anyway, I totally get your point, but I’m not sure you’re getting mine. I’m saying that the standard model, as it were, of interacting with grizz would not have predicted that you could camp within or on the very edge of the feeding zone of a large community of bears for two or three months a year for about a dozen bears and not get mauled or killed. Yes yes, this is all about probability and risk assessment etc. etc. so statistically there are no certainties etc. etc. etc. But, no one would have expected what didn’t happen to not happen. If, in fact, Herzog is correct, then the truth remains: It did not happen. If he is wrong, then the fact ramins, it did not happen for 13 years. Holy fuck. … it is not satisfying to me to say “well, it happened, just took a bit longer..” because the situation is probably more interesting than that.

    And, my key metapoint is that people’s insistence on the common mythological version i which justice is served just as we always knew it would be and just as it is supposed to have been makes the interesting details opaque.

    No one is arguing that girzzly bears are very dangerous and should be avoided. Even TT made it clear that he thought they were dangerous and talked about that all the time in the film, except when he was going on and on about how he could handle them, of course.

  27. #28 William
    April 6, 2011

    Deadalus2u (11) covers the biology and Greg (14) covers the relevant situational facts.

    Grizzly bears are not social animals. They do not form “communities”. They attack and eat each other with some regularity. The only known situation where a high density of animals is tolerated is where there is an atypical abundance of food such as the annual salmon runs in Alaska. Even there they are territorial and will attack encroaching animals at the river bank. TT was smart enough to stay away from them at their feeding areas. He was tolerated by hanging around the periphery and getting dramatic photos when the bears were full of fish.

    We can only speculate on his psychology but in a very real sense he was a demonstration of the Second Noble Truth:

    The origin of suffering is attachment to transient things
    and the ignorance thereof. Transient things do not only include the physical objects that surround us, but also ideas, and, in a greater sense, all objects of our perception. Ignorance is the lack of understanding of how our mind is attached to impermanent things. The reasons for suffering are desire, passion, pursuit of wealth and prestige, striving for status and popularity, and clinging to the present and the past.

    Because the objects of our attachment are transient,
    their loss is inevitable and suffering will necessarily follow. We thereby misperceive the very nature of our existence, and the sources of happiness and unhappiness.

    Timothy Treadwell misperceived the nature of Grizzly bears.

  28. #29 Mingr
    April 6, 2011

    I’m not sure whether lions are more or less dangerous than bears. Grizzly bears are an awful lot bigger, in any event, I and figure if there were lions around grizzlies, more grizzlies would kill lions than the other way around.

    So, perhaps TT managed to game the situation such that he reduced the probability of being killed. Maybe he smelled bad (to a bear). Its a matter of fact that when you are out in the wild you can’t necessarily chose which bear you are going to encounter. From time to time a new bear is going to show up and maybe to that bear you smell (and taste) just great.

    I’ve met people who spend a fair bit of time more or less alone in grizzley (and, for that matter, polar bear) country. There is a reason ‘loaded for bear’ does not refer to what type of film you have. Of course, they haven’t been killed, so I guess it proves nothing.

  29. #30 Greg Laden
    April 6, 2011

    At the moment, very few people are eaten by grizzly bears, and quite a few by lions, every year. About one tourist a year in Africa gets eaten by a lion, and in most places you are required to stay in a car, and there are armed guards in many areas. In the US west, tourists routinely camp and walk. I’m not sure what the rate of grizz eating people is. The comparison is almost impossible to make because there are so many contingencies and differences, but the tourist rate is somewhat meaningful to me. Hard to say.

    Also, carnivorous bears are at least a little omnivorous but not lions. Their systems of territoriality are very different, so again, hard to say.

    I’m sure that the bear-lion fight has been staged more than once. There must be an historical record of that.

  30. #31 daedalus2u
    April 6, 2011

    I suspect that the lions would win because lions hunt in prides. Bears are solitary. I don’t think there are any terrestrial top predators in Africa that are non-social. In the water there are crocodiles. On land the non-social cats are all smaller than the lion and there are no bears.

    In North America, wolves are social and don’t hibernate. I suspect that if bears didn’t hibernate that the competition with wolves would drive the bears extinct.

  31. #32 Greg Laden
    April 6, 2011

    Bears may well hibernate for that exact reason. By the way, there used to be bears in Africa.

  32. #33 Mingr
    April 7, 2011

    I can help it:

    There used to be sabre toothed tigers, etc., in North America – perhaps the grizzlies ate them all …

  33. #34 Samantha Vimes
    April 18, 2011

    Uh, why does it *matter* if he was bipolar or not?
    I honestly can’t see a reason for it to mean anything. If he wanted to commit suicide because he had an uncontrolled severe depressive episode, he wouldn’t likely have committed suicide-by-bear. Suicidal thoughts tend to focus on how to do it in a tidy, painless or fast, and kind-to-others fashion. And those who do want to go out in a spectacular fashion don’t want it to be bad publicity for something they care about the way an amateur naturalist would have to care about bears to live that way.
    Or is the theory that he went to far in a manic moment? It doesn’t work that way as far as I’ve seen. If he were bipolar, I simply can’t see how it would be significant in terms of understanding his death.

    I have a number of bipolar friends, and I could see them choosing to live and film in the wilderness, because animals aren’t prejudiced against them the way people often are.

    ***
    Sounds like the bear had to feed up before it could hibernate, or it would die. That would make it dangerous to anyone, no matter how they behaved.

  34. #35 Greg Laden
    April 18, 2011

    I also don’t think it matters, but I also don’t think the film indicates that he was.

  35. #36 Hank Fox
    April 24, 2011

    Greg:

    Thank you so much for covering this. I’m sorry I missed this post when it first came out, but I’m going to comment on it anyway.

    It took me a while to figure out the real reason “Grizzly Man” bothered me, but here it is (echoed on my Blue Collar Atheist blog):

    One of the things we humans have for guiding our behavior is a general social “lore” about all the various aspects of our lives. Picture the Lore as all that stuff that got handed down around the campfire in our earliest tribal years – how to live with lions, how to pound yams to make them edible, the best pickup lines to attract females – and is handed down today around the dinner table (or more likely, via a television or movie screen, talk radio, Twitter, Digg, YouTube, blogs, etc.).

    We’re so damned adaptable that the Lore can be mistaken, sometimes grossly so, and we can survive it, often even living somewhat comfortably under self-created way-less-than-ideal conditions.

    For centuries, for instance, the Lore said that women were inferior to men – unworthy of owning property, unqualified to drive cars or vote wisely and possibly even uneducable in math. The consequences of that belief were and are huge, it seems to me, invading every aspect of human society and having an extremely broad negative impact. On the lives of both women AND men.

    One of the chief glories of science and reason is that they gave us a way to defy the Lore, to show it to be wrong in the places it’s wrong, and to back up these new conclusions with difficult-to-deny real facts.

    The main fact of the Lore, though, is that it changes slowly. One of the many somewhat-shaky explanations for why we say “Bless you!” when someone sneezes is that it dates from an outbreak of the bubonic plague in about 590 A.D., when the blessing was a prayerful effort to halt the spread of the disease. And here we are, 1400 years later, STILL SAYING IT. The lag in corrective change between the Lore and the facts can stretch to decades, even centuries, after the true stuff becomes known.

    The Lore about wild animals is that they’re deadly dangerous, and “When in doubt, wipe it out.” Our chief wildlife management technique, for anything even remotely threatening, was and is killing.

    Several thousand years after we started building cities, most of us today live in places that are so damned divorced from our wildlands that we have to make a major effort of time and money to get to where the wild things are.

    And yet I’ll bet you could go to the most concretized, ungreen, unwild parts of New York City, Los Angeles, Mexico City, Paris or Berlin and ask random 12-year-olds “What do you know about grizzly bears?” and get the answer “They’ll kill and eat ya!”

    That’s the Lore in action. Despite the FACT that most of those people won’t get within 500 miles of the nearest free-roaming grizzly, our automatic understanding of them is that they’re deadly dangerous. Which means: The vast majority of us think that anytime we DO get to grizzly country, or wolf country, or mountain lion country, we need to be prepared to either kill or be killed (or to have armed “wildlife management” people nearby ready to blast away at anything that even slightly scares us).

    It also means that nothing wild can be permitted near cities. Hell, I show people this picture of a delightful little red fox that I took in my back yard, and about 80 percent of the time I hear, first, “Was it rabid??” and then stories about the disappearance of domestic cats. Which, because foxes generally weigh only about as much as a sack of potatoes, probably falls short of the most likely explanation.

    I can’t tell you how many parrot-screeches of exactly this sort I’ve read on blog after blog anytime the subject of wildlife has come up. Yet for reasons I detail in an associated piece on my blog, Grizzly’s Gamble, that view is a vast distance from true.

    My main objection to “Grizzly Man” is just this: Given a choice of presenting useful new facts about grizzlies or the human-grizzly interface …

    … such as the details of the method by which Tim Treadwell managed to live within spitting distance of these supposed “killer bears” for 13 summers …

    … Herzog – like a cheap whore telling her latest client “Me love you long time” – chose the path to greatest profit. He chose to sensationalize – and reinforce – the Lore. (Take a look at the movie-DVD listing on Amazon.com for a long, LONG list of perfectly representational comments.)

    The result of that sort of thing is, inevitably, more killing, more pushing away, more destruction of nature and natural systems. More difficulty at intelligently managing wildlands and wildlife, and more shortsighted solutions to “problem” wildlife. Worse – and this should be especially resonant with you, Greg – more difficulty at getting voters and elected officials to listen to scientists and researchers who know the most about the natural systems and species in question.

    For that alone, I don’t like the bastard. Or his stupid film.

  36. #37 Ming the Merciless
    July 10, 2011

    A few summers ago, in Northern Manitoba, I watched a couple of black bear cubs(about 500 pounds)play around by our landing strip all summer.

    Bears are genetically just overgrown dogs and they where like two lovely and cuddly puppies. It’s a heartbreak to watch them knowing they are scheduled to be killed by the next batch of hunters…and yes, one of them did get killed.

    However, a hundred times more people are killed every years by black bears than by grizzlies or white polar bears.

    People are not so terrified of them blackies, but they grow enormous too and they go very close to people for the garbage.

    A bellyfull bear is the most harmless and debonair creature you’ll ever find. But if is hungry and have to feed to survive, never forget that you are lunch, just the same as HE is lunch for the native people…

    As for Herzog, read the report of the pilot that brought supplies to TT…he was almost caught by the same rogue bear…restarted his engine with the bad bear standing outside the cockpit door, snarling!

  37. #38 Greg Laden
    July 10, 2011

    Actually, the number of people killed in north American by black and brown bears is pretty even, with brown probably killing a few more. The numbers are so low that it is hard to be sure statistically. However, black bears live in closer propinquity to humans than do brown bears, and can become quite tame while wild whereas brown bears may not be quite so uninterested in humans as meals or threats. (Hard to say given the uneven distribution in relation to people of the two species.)

    But yeah, black bears are not really teddy bears!

  38. #39 Bill
    July 20, 2011

    Unfortunately for Tim he was a fool who was warned numerous times about the dangers of thinking that a wild animal can have human-like traits. The tragedy of this entire event was that he also caused the death of a woman, and the bear that ate him! 3 lives snuffed out due to his stupidity. I can only hope that others morons will get a clue from this horribly dumb event. The one I feel the most sorry for is the bear!

  39. #40 Clinger True
    January 19, 2013

    Wither from “his own bears” or “his community of bears,” for some one to have not concluded that they are not entirely driven by olfactory knowledge but are enabled by some humanoid social type structure, implies at the least poor reasoning. That they did not recognize that man, who was to control animals, was nevertheless destined to live a contentiousness relationship with animals, thus, he/they should have at least carried a Smith & Wesson 329PD Revolver for what should have been expected violent bear aberrations is revealing. This confirms than the implied social structure with humans is totally lacking. That he convinced his girlfriend that bears are inclined toward a social nature with humans, sentenced her to a horrible death which just adds to the implied potential criminal act. Emotion is no substitute for should have been observed carnivore behavior characteristics.

  40. #41 Ann Smith
    Texas
    August 3, 2013

    Well first off I don’t think things were balanced right in his mind to begin with, the poor man. And secondly I think that he thought , judging from his aversion to society, that he could hold hands with his girlfriend and skip down the yellow brick road to the land of Oz and play with the fuzzy bears and everything would be peachy. He had to be out of touch with reality the poor man.

  41. #42 Jeff the reality man
    Knoxville, TN
    September 16, 2013

    Late to the comments, but just had to respond. Not sure why you are putting such emphasis on whether it was a known bear or not. This has NOTHING to do with it for me and why i am sickened by what TT did. What angers me is that he put another human being at risk based on beliefs that he had some universal, liberal, connection with nature where love and fuzzy feelings ruled all. He convinced her that he could protect her no matter what and he HAD TO KNOW that he could not back those words up if something happened.

    Not one of his own bears, well then he also should have known that they might run in to a bear that wasn’t one of his, so is he not responsible for refusing to prepare for that possibility? YES HE WAS RESPONSIBLE!!! So to me it’s MEANINGLESS whether he knew of that particular bear or not, he absolutely knew that he might run in to a bear like this and he convinced another human being to go in to bear country with ZERO protection, no bear spray. I am stunned and angry at this guy, how dare he put someone else in physical danger by telling them he could protect her when he couldn’t back that up. That’s the real tragedy of this story and it’s the legit reason many are angry with TT for what happened.

    Yes, the girl was responsible as well because no adult person should have been DUMB enough to let someone talk them in to going in to bear country without protection because they CLAIMED they were in touch with them on some higher plane of existence, so of course she was responsible for her own death, but he is also responsible for convincing her of this knowing he could never physically defend her IF something bad happened.

    In another blog the writer says what haunts him is wondering if after killing and dragging TT off, and coming back for Amie, did she try to keep the tent between her and the bear? How long was she able to keep away from it before it grabbed her too? I wonder, was there a fleeting thought from her as she tried to escape of, “I can’t believe I let myself get talked in to coming out here with no physical protection for this by that idiot laying dead out there”?

    Obviously he was in lala land of universal harmony and in touch with nature garbage, and I could give a crap how he wanted to commit suicide, but he had no right to convince another human being that he could protect them with no gun or bear spray. No matter his beliefs he should have had his and her cans of spray right by each of their heads at all times, and he should have even had drills to see how fast they could get the spray and fire so that they could be ready for anything. That would have been showing nature, the bears, AND his supposed loved one proper respect and safety.

    So who cares where the bear was from, he should have know ANYTHING was possible with these wild animals and he believed he was ABOVE NATURE in this way and what a HORRIBLE DISSERVICE he did to another human being by putting them at risk because he was delusional about what he was capable of. All I can hope is that while that poor woman was being EATEN ALIVE she was cursing that fool all the way to her death and shoved him in to hell while she went to heaven, even though she was responsible for letting the nut convince her to go in to bear country with NO WAY to physically defend herself if something happened, which it DID!!! Whether he knew the bear or not doesn’t mean a rats behind to me because he disrespected nature an convinced another human being to come out there with no protection and she got eaten alive because of it, and for that I hope the guy rots forever.

    I sometimes wonder if while he was being eaten, if I would have been there with a can of bear spray, I could have asked, “hey guy, I thought you were in communication with these animals on some higher plane of existence, uh, ready to admit you were wrong? Would you like me to use the bear spray now, or are you still contending they won’t do this to you because the universe is nothing but rainbows and loli pops?

  42. #43 Carol Thomas
    North Carolina, USA
    October 18, 2013

    I was married to a man so much like TT, even looking like him, that the resemblance totally unnerves me. He was an idealistic outdoorsman and I loved him so much I would have done exactly what Amie did for Tim. What haunts and reasonates with me the most? Instead of being HER protector and rescuer, he calls for her to leave the “safety” (probably in her mind) of the tent to come save HIM: “Help me, get out here, I’m dying out here!”

  43. #44 damien
    usa
    February 28, 2014

    My God this guy’s writing style is pretty irritating…dumb details and run-on sentences- I could only manage half the story.

  44. #45 Clare
    Florida
    March 18, 2014

    I have just finished watching this documentary on T.V. Even though I have watched this periodically, this time I felt the need to watch it several times.

    Although 2014 is late to the party, the need for me to place my thoughts on paper(so to speak) seemed important to me. Please “bear” with me–no disrespect meant.

    In reading most comments they are judgmental of TT and pro or con of his actions.Displaced Surfer Boy or Displaced Environmentalist. Either way he was Displaced period. From the film I gathered he was a lost soul who wanted to belong to something, or some being. One with nature! I think the real story is that of a man who found his “Home” in the company of something untamable. I do not believe for one minute that TT truly believed “they will never attack me, I know how to hold my ground” . This film showed his uneasiness with these giants. He viewed them from afar, and when they got close he did not hold his ground ,rather backed off speaking softly about how he loved them.
    His rambling commentary of fierce defense of these animals against man /poachers were nothing more than his need to justify his need to be an interloper–they needed his protection.
    He found a place where he WANTED to believe he was one with nature and it’s wondrous and mighty creatures. He was Home.
    I do believe that the abundance of food in that area was what kept him alive for 13 years. I do believe he died at he jaws of a starving bear. Whether he was familiar with that bear or not is moot. He startled it by yelling for the camera, it attacked, and he was helpless to defend himself. The bear saw the two of them as prey, and he was not going to be driven off from food–he was starving. That is what bears do!
    I will always feel such profound sorrow that he needed to seek solace from humanity by trying to find a place within the confines of a plot of land that became his haven. He simply wanted to belong to some part of this world.

    Sad for his girlfriend, but she seemed very intelligent and could have made decisions on her own. She was not coerced in any way. I do not believe she believed TT’s musings of being “One with the bears”, therefore her safety provider.
    It is my opinion that sadly TT did more harm to the animals he wanted so to protect. I agree with the Alaskan park ranger when he said ” these majestic creatures , from the beginning of time, were left alone out of respect , and TT disrespected them.