Killed by the bears he loved |

Killed by the bears he loved

Terri Schlichenmeyer

What possesses an adrenalin junkie to do the things he does? What makes a skateboarder jump over the Great Wall of China, a wheeled leap that, if missed, could mean death but most certainly would mean injury? What kind of thrills are at the end of a rocky descent or a parachute ripcord?

The answer to that, if there ever was one for Timothy Treadwell, will never be answered. That’s because, nearly two years ago, Treadwell, who was known as a “bear whisperer,” was killed and eaten by one of the bears he lived among and claimed to be protecting. In the new book “The Grizzly Maze: Timothy Treadwell’s Fatal Obsession with Alaskan Bears” by Nick Jans, you’ll read the amazing story of where Treadwell lived, and how he died (c.2005, $24.95, 272 pages).

There are plenty of stories about Timothy Treadwell, and many of them are of his own fabrication. Treadwell made claims of a past spent as a troubled and drug-addicted teen in California; claims that many have questioned or outright disputed. At one point, Treadwell said, he survived a drug overdose, and a well-meaning soul pointed him in the direction of Alaska, a place where he might find peace. Instead, he found a cause. Timothy Treadwell fell in love with bears.

For some thirteen summers, Treadwell camped among and lived with brown / grizzly bears (they are, technically speaking, brown bears commonly known as “grizzlies”). He gave them cute names, took thousands of pictures, wrote prodigiously about his observations, gained Hollywood support, gave talks about “his” bears, and raised thousands of dollars for his cause. People who saw him said he had “a way” with bears. Other people said he was spouting incorrect or, at best, incomplete information and that he was making the bears immune to human presence; recipes for danger, both to humans and to bears.

Worst of all, according to detractors, Treadwell had found a series of paths that bears used to travel through dense underbrush, an area he called the “grizzly maze.” For several summers, he camped in the midst of these paths, which meant that bears he “knew” – and bears he didn’t know – ambled by, just yards from his tent. In October of 2003, one of those bears attacked, killed, and ate Treadwell and his companion, Amie Huguenard, an attack that was accidentally, chillingly, recorded on audio.

So was Treadwell a visionary or was he a nut? Friends, colleagues, biologists, and many Alaska residents have their opinions, but author Nick Jans lets you decide for yourself. Even though you know the outcome of Treadwell’s story, Jans makes it a nail-biter as he leads you up through Timothy’s life and the eventual, brutal deaths of two humans and two grizzlies. Jans then goes on to talk about bear/human interaction and what you can do to avoid attack.

In the end, only speculation will tell what really happened to Treadwell and Huguenard, but “The Grizzly Maze” is a true page-turner, perfect for any thrill-seeker or armchair adrenaline junkie.

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