Treadwell had taken the photo knowing that many of the Katmai bear-viewing guides carried shotguns for protection, as did National Park Service employees and bear-viewing escorts at the state-run McNeil River grizzly-viewing area to the north. He was always flying in my airplanes. He stayed at my house. He knew there was no poaching over there. Walters called his lawyer and told him to go after the sponsor of the brochure--clothing company Patagonia. The company collected and destroyed as many of the brochures as it could, and temporarily pulled its support from Treadwell.
It was a mistake. It was just meant to portray a poacher. Though Treadwell trumpeted the poacher theme in the Lower 48, he had over the years began to play it down in Alaska. The self-proclaimed eco-warrior who once proudly bragged of confronting bear hunters in the city of Kodiak had even become friends with hunting guide Bill Sims.
He became less cocky. Early on, it was like he wanted to change the world, and he wanted to change it right then and there. Andrew knew the broad outlines of what had happened between Walters and Treadwell--Kodiak is, after all, a small town--but brushed it off as an accident. Treadwell seemed like a nice guy, and everyone said he was doing a good job of teaching kids about bears stateside. Andrew was curious about why Treadwell was going back to Kaflia so late in the year, but not concerned.
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Treadwell had long ago proven himself. His tenure alone spoke loudly in a land that shows little tolerance for human frailties. McCandless, a top student and athlete at Emory University in Atlanta, abandoned his possessions in , gave all of his money to charity and eventually hitchhiked to Alaska, where he went to live in the wilderness. You see, in Alaska, for every plant you can eat there is a poisonous one that looks just like it. But then, a slight botanical error was a small thing compared to the many outright fictions Treadwell passed off over the years--from his life in the English orphanage, to his struggle to make it through high school, to those imaginary poachers that aided Grizzly People fund-raising efforts.
The hype brought in the money that allowed Treadwell to do what he loved: commune with the bears. Bear professionals debate whether Treadwell had any special knack for this, but there is little doubt about his ability to communicate with children. Pleasant memories flood back when former teacher Valerie Roach of Santa Monica talks about the appearances of the bear man before her third-grade classes at two California elementary schools.
Everyone agrees this was the stage on which Treadwell performed at his absolute best.
He rose without pretensions, his oversize personality flooding the room with enthusiasm. When Treadwell came to class, Roach says, there was no stodgy schoolroom presentation. This was show time.
Treadwell would set up when the kids were at recess or lunch. By the time they came thundering back, he would be in position with his slide projector ready, straining to hold his excitement in check.
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His blond hair was shaggy, his posture athletic. It gave him the look of an aging rock star. Now, his personality would bring his experience with bears to life in the classroom. He had so much energy. A lot of that came through in the videos Treadwell made for Grizzly People over the years.
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On film, he displayed a remarkable talent for engaging and capturing the lens. Film producer Dixon says he was a natural. Treadwell was at his humorous best, for instance, narrating the destruction of his tent in a windstorm along the Alaska coast. As flapping nylon pounded around him, he talked to the camera as if it were his best friend, describing what a miserable day he was having. When at last the tent fell--his head pinched between sheets of nylon--he confessed that he was going to have to put the camera away.
So I gave them a pop quiz the next day. Students learned the state capital, Juneau; the largest city, Anchorage; a bit about the geography, and a lot about the environment--with a Treadwell spin. He was always the favorite. In part it was the bears, but it was really his personal style and this game-show thing. She also says he had a good message beyond the bears, telling the kids to stay in school, study hard and avoid drugs. He was a darling.
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Every time he came to my classroom, he brought another photograph. He did not ask to be paid. Barnes was then leading brown bear research for the Kodiak National Wildlife Refuge. Now retired and living in Colorado after 17 years of work with Alaska bears, Barnes remembers Treadwell. He jumped out in two feet of [degree] water. Right away, Barnes knew Treadwell was different.
Treadwell claimed to be studying the bears, but Barnes observed something else. It was contrary to any sort of research. Where trained researchers try to disappear from view, so as to observe the behavior of bears free of the influence of man, Treadwell did exactly the opposite. And each year he seemed to get bolder, touching bears, letting a bear lick his hand, kissing a bear on the nose.
More than once Barnes tried to explain to the newcomer from Southern California that he was contaminating his own research, if it could be called that. Because campsite rangers believed that the large protective bear was the culprit in the killings, the bear was shot and killed. The necropsy revealed that the bear had in-fact attacked, mauled, and eaten both Timothy and Amie.
Upon even further investigation, rangers stumbled across a video camera at the campsite. While the actual video footage was blank, there was clear sound that had been recorded. The sounds recorded on the video camera were of Amie and Timothy screaming, yelling, and begging for their lives while they were being mauled to death by the large grizzly. The agonizing sounds captured only lasted for about six minutes before the video camera ran out of tape. The audio clip above is supposedly a cut from the tape the couple gets mauled by the bear.
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