voice can be heard on the pictureless videotape calling
to Treadwell to "play dead."
Evidence suggests Treadwell returned to Kaflia Bay after he got angry with an
The mauling deaths of Californian Timothy Treadwell and girlfriend Amie Huguenard
at Alaska's Kaflia Bay in October may have begun with something as simple as
the celebrity bear-man leaving his lunch to shoo away a wandering grizzly.
After more than a decade of summers spent hanging out among the bears of the
Katmai coast, Treadwell considered himself a friend and companion of these bears.
But Alaska State Troopers and other people who have reviewed evidence gathered
after the couple died believe Huguenard was becoming increasingly nervous about
life among the bears.
Newly released reports from troopers hint the two may have been arguing about
Nearly 70 pages of troopers memos, on-the-scene reports from National Park Service
rangers, property records and maps were obtained by the Daily News in response
to several Freedom of Information Act requests over a span of almost six months.
The records confirm that Treadwell, 46, and Huguenard, 37, were attacked just
after 1:45 in the afternoon on Oct. 5 -- not at night, as originally believed
-- and shed new details on what the couple might have been doing before the attack.
Among the many documents in the report is one detailing the small amount of food
that had earlier been reported found in the couple's flattened but otherwise
The food, according to the report, consisted of:
* A small Butterfinger candy bar.
* A bottle of juice.
* A "hot dog or bratwurst.''
Given that 0304, the time of day and a pictureless videotape said to record the
sounds of rain hammering the couple's tent just before the bear attack, John
Hechtel, an authority on bears with the Alaska Department of Fish and Game, said
it is reasonable to conclude the couple had ducked into their only shelter in
the brushy but treeless landscape to escape the weather and enjoy lunch.
Then they either saw or heard a bear approaching their camp. A videotape containing
the sounds of what happened next indicates Treadwell went out into the weather
to confront the bear. Troopers reports indicate Treadwell was dressed for going
outside, not spending the day lounging inside the tent. Over his normal clothing,
he wore nylon overpants made by Patagonia, one of several companies that supported
Treadwell's annual summer sojourns among the bears on the coast of Katmai National
Park, and a "nylon-lined, polyester insulated'' shirt or jacket.
Friends of Treadwell say it was his norm to try to chase bears out of his camp.
Many professional bear biologists say they have done likewise but add they would
be reluctant to confront the sort of mature, 1,000-pound adult boar that Treadwell
apparently met that day.
Big grizzly males -- animals accustomed to ruling the wilderness in which they
live -- "make me a lot more nervous than any others,'' Hechtel said, echoing
the words of just about every scientist who has worked around Alaska grizzlies.
Even Treadwell, in his 1997 book "Among Grizzlies,'' admitted to the potential
danger posed by these bears. He described a chilling encounter with one such
bear in the alder thickets that surround Kaflia Lake.
"This was Demon, who some experts label the '25th Grizzly,' the one that tolerates
no man or bear, the one that kills without bias,'' Treadwell wrote. "I had thought
Demon was going to kill me in the Grizzly Maze.''
The Grizzly Maze is what Treadwell called the area around Kaflia Bay and two
small lakes that drain into the bay. The lakes support a late run of salmon that
attracts the bears and attracted Treadwell. He usually spent the month of September
there. Last fall, he was staying unusually late in the maze with Huguenard, and
the troopers report indicates that things were not going well between the couple.
"I read the last several entries of the journals" kept by Treadwell and Huguenard,
trooper Chris Hill wrote in one report to superiors. "They did not indicate anything
unusual other than some arguing amongst Treadwell and Huguenard. Excepts (sic)
of the Huguenard's journey (sic) did indicate that she was more or less afraid
of the bears.''
If Treadwell and Huguenard were arguing over the dangers presented by the bears
at Kaflia, and if Huguenard was growing increasingly nervous about the bears,
Treadwell might have had even more incentive than normal to drop his lunch and
chase the day's intruder out of camp.
Alaska Department of Fish and Game biologist Larry Van Daele, who viewed some
videotapes that Treadwell and Huguenard recorded before their deaths, said it
was obvious the woman was uneasy about being in the maze.
One "video shows Ms. Huguenard within three meters (10 feet) of a sow with cubs
as they fish,'' Van Daele said. "One of the cubs came even closer to her while
(Treadwell) filmed. She seemed uncomfortable but did not move. Some journal entries
suggest that she was not as comfortable with the situation as he was.''
Treadwell, Van Daele said, in one video described "his campsite as (in) a potentially
dangerous location, but he expresses his confidence that he understands these
bears and they will not harm him.''
The videotapes and journals themselves were not available to the Daily News.
Troopers say they were turned over to the executor and sole beneficiary of Treadwell's
will -- Jewel Palovak of Malibu, Calif. Palovak was the co-author of "Among Grizzlies''
and Treadwell's partner in a nonprofit organization called Grizzly People.
Grizzly People, according to its Web site, "is a grassroots organization devoted
to preserving bears and their wilderness habitat. Our goal is to elevate the
grizzly to the kindred state of the whale and dolphin through supportive education
in the hopes that humans will learn to live in peace with the bear, wilderness
and fellow humans."
The organization claimed all donations it collected were used to fund:
* Annual four-month expeditions to protect the bears and other wild animals of
* Photographic wildlife studies.
* Educational wildlife videos.
* Educational campaign in North American schools.
* Sharing of Grizzly People's photographs with other preservation organizations.
All of those activities were conducted by Treadwell, but usually in close communication
with Palovak. In fact, only seven hours after troopers and park rangers had first
gone to investigate a possible bear attack at Kaflia Bay -- more than 24 hours
before the attacks would become public knowledge -- Palovak was on the phone
to troopers in Kodiak trying to confirm a report from local air-taxi operator
Dean Andrew that Treadwell might have been killed by a bear, according to troopers
According to a memo from Hill, she offered help in contacting Treadwell's parents,
volunteering that he "was estranged from his family so he didn't talk with them
often." And she noted she had "power of attorney for Treadwell and would like
to receive his belongings, to include his journals.''
Within days, Palovak also had a Los Angeles legal firm asking Alaska officials
that "to protect the interest of the family of the decedent, we request that
you refrain from further public dissemination of private information and materials,
including, without limitation, the content of audiovisual tapes.''
Shortly after getting that letter, troopers imposed an information blackout.
When the Park Service convened a Technical Board of Investigation in December
to try to determine what had transpired to lead to the two deaths at Kaflia Bay
two months earlier, it still couldn't obtain any information from troopers. It
wasn't until after the board had completed its initial report, based on the assumption
the attack happened in camp at night, that it learned troopers had known for
some time that the attack actually came at midday.
According to the documents obtained by the Daily News, trooper Sgt. Maurice I.
Hughes Jr. on Oct. 9 -- three days after Treadwell was discovered dead -- talked
to a friend of the author and filmmaker in Malibu who explained how to retrieve
the date-time stamp in Treadwell's digital video camera. Hughes said he subsequently
discovered that the tape of Treadwell and Huguenard being mauled ran from 4:47:23
p.m. to 4:53:44 p.m. -- a span of 6 minutes, 21 seconds -- but that the camera
was set to record the time for a time zone three hours ahead of Alaska.
Troopers knew then that the attack had occurred from 1:47 to 1:53 p.m. Alaska
time on Oct. 5, but they were publicly saying there was no date-time stamp on
the video. Not only in Alaska, but nationally and internationally, that led to
widespread speculation that Treadwell and Huguenard had been attacked by a marauding
grizzly at night.
The troopers reports shed no new light on what was on that pictureless videotape.
Van Daele and others who have heard the audio have said there are the sounds
of heavy rain, shouts from Huguenard to Treadwell to "play dead,'' pleas from
Treadwell to Huguenard for help, including his request she hit the bear with
a pan, and lastly Huguenard wailing.
There had been speculation that Treadwell, who often wore a microphone to record
sounds when getting close to bears, might have been "miked up" when the attack
started, but the new troopers documents indicate that was unlikely. An evidence
report says his remote microphone was found in the same protective box with the
camera inside the tent where he and Huguenard had apparently been lunching.
The reports do, however, suggest a new reason Treadwell might have gone back
to the Grizzly Maze at a time when he was normally gone from there. Palovak told
troopers, according to the reports, that Treadwell "was originally gonna do a
driving trip to Denali Park for some different photo footage. (But) he was worried
that one of his favorite bears wasn't sighted on an earlier trip to Kaflia and
(he) wanted to go back.''
Hughes reported finding information in Treadwell's journals that put a different
spin on things.
"It appeared Treadwell returned to Kaflia Bay because he realized that was where
he wanted to be,'' Hughes said. "He canceled a driving trip around Alaska with
Huguenard because he became angry with an airline employee about the cost of
a change fee for their flight from Kodiak.''
Biologists and bear-viewing guides who knew Treadwell and watched his behavior
along the Katmai coast for years said such an action is not out of character.
Treadwell, said U.S. Geological Survey bear researcher Tom Smith, often displayed
strange behaviors, sometimes fleeing at the site of other people, sometimes confronting
Treadwell sometimes liked to brag about how he protected bears at Kaflia by confronting
poachers, though no evidence has surfaced that such confrontations took place
or even that there were any poachers operating in the area. Park Service officials
have no reports of poaching problems and add that it is hard to believe poachers
would try to operate in one of the state's most heavily visited bear-viewing
areas. Thousands of people now go to view the Katmai bears every summer, and
the air-taxi companies that have made a big business of bear viewing are highly
protective of the animals.
Still, Treadwell had told enough tales of poachers to California audiences that
Hill, according to one of his reports, "received a telephone call from Rosemary
White with the Sierra Club. She expressed her insight of the events regarding
Treadwell's death being most likely committed by a hunter, due to Treadwell's
past reports of having run-ins with poachers and Treadwell's acceptance by the
An autopsy later confirmed both Treadwell and Huguenard had been killed by a
bear. Troopers and park rangers who investigated the deaths of Treadwell and
Huguenard believe they killed that bear -- a 1,000-pound male -- after it threatened
them. The air-taxi pilot who'd first reported problems at Kaflia said the dead
bear appeared to be the same one he saw sitting on a food cache from which some
of Treadwell's remains were recovered. More of Treadwell's body, along with some
of his clothing, was found in the bear when Van Daele performed a necropsy to
see if there was anything wrong with the animal.
"We know we got one right bear, or there's very strong evidence of that,'' said
acting medical examiner Franc Fallico. Fallico noted, however, that it would
have been impossible to specifically match bite marks from the bear with the
remains because of the damage done by the animal trying to eat the people.
Other than being 28 years old -- old for a grizzly -- and having bad teeth, Van
Daele said the animal appeared to be in good condition. It was a little lean,
he said, but nowhere near what might be considered starving. Why it decided to
attack, kill and then partially consume two people is clearly never going to
known, Hechtel said.
The bear's behavior will forever remain almost as much of a mystery as Timothy
Dexter, the man who became Treadwell.
Hill said his father, Valentine Dexter, "informed me that Treadwell had actually
changed his last name from Dexter to Treadwell, a stage name he had used while
pursuing an entertainment career.''
Treadwell never made the big time in Hollywood. But he wrote a book, made the "The
Late Show With David Letterman," starred in a couple movies about bears, put
on his one-man shows for schoolchildren and environmentalists and acted as an
adviser to the Disney Co. on the animated feature film "Brother Bear.''
"Brother Bear" opened three weeks after Treadwell's death, and quickly faded.
The legend of Timothy Treadwell, however, remains.
Daily News Outdoor editor Craig Medred can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org
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