Tom Price writes for Outside?

Was just curious if this was a different Tom Price… the story is interesting (and morbidly amusing). I think I watched that guy’s program on TDC a few months ago - he and the concept seem really familiar.

Grizzly Researcher Killed by Bears in Katmai National Park

By Tom Price

October 8, 2003 Well-known grizzly researcher Timothy Treadwell and his companion, Amy Huguenard, were killed this week by a bear, at their remote camp in Alaska’s Katmai National Park, about 300 miles southwest of Anchorage. It was the first bear-related fatality in the Park’s history.

Treadwell, 46, was known for his unorthodox practice of sharing close proximity with the giant predators.

The two bodies were discovered Monday by an Andrews Airways air taxi pilot who had returned to pick them up as scheduled. After seeing a bear sitting on what appeared to be the remains of one of the victims, the pilot notified park officials. When Alaska state troopers and park rangers arrived on scene to recover the bodies, a bear was seen feeding on human remains.

The bodies were “partially buried and dismembered, cached as a bear would cache any food supply,” said Katmai spokesman John Quinley. In a bitterly ironic coda to a life dedicated to bear preservation, state troopers were forced to shoot and kill the first grizzly, as well as a second aggressive bear, both of which Park officials speculate were returning to protect their kills.

Treadwell had spent every summer for the last 13 years camping with and photographing the grizzly bears of Alaska, and was accompanied on this trip by his girlfriend, 37-year-old Huguenard, who had recently moved to Malibu to live with him. His last outside contact was a satellite telephone call at noon on Sunday to Jewel Palovak, program director for Treadwell’s Grizzly People educational project. He had been in the salmon-rich area photographing the bears, which can reach 1,100 pounds, all summer.

Park officials had warned Treadwell repeatedly that his custom of spending extended periods of time in close proximity to bears was a dangerous and foolhardy practice.

“We cautioned him about being too close to bears, and being too casual around them” said Quinley. “We had talked to him about this and what could be the consequences of his behavior.” According to Quinley, their tents, while flattened, didn’t appear to have been torn open, indicating the victims were killed while in camp.

Although his Web site warns that “people should remain 100 yards from bears at all times,” he regularly disregarded his own advice, and according to officials used poor judgment in choosing a campsite. Quinley said, “If we were recommending a place to camp, that’s not a place that would have been high on our list. It was not a camping area that had particularly good sight lines to see bears coming, or for them to see you, and it was surrounded by bear trails and close to salmon feeding areas.”

In what proved to be an eerily prescient comment, two years ago former Katmai National Park Superintendent Deb Liggett was quoted by the Anchorage Daily News as saying: “At best he’s misguided, at worst he’s dangerous. If Timothy models unsafe behavior, that ultimately puts bears and other visitors at risk.” She went on to say that if Treadwell were mauled or killed, “the park would have a tragedy on its hand, and would probably have to destroy the bear.”

The section of Katmai National Park where the incident took place is one of the very few places in Alaska where firearms are not allowed for personal protection, but Treadwell was known for having never carried weapons. He had even given up carrying bear spray or using electrified fences in recent years. Park officials used standard issue 12 gauge shotguns with heavy slugs to kill the bears.

Although some questioned his methods, Treadwell did have many enthusiastic supporters. His book Among Grizzlies had appeared on the L.A. Times best sellers list, and he had appeared on Dateline NBC and The David Letterman Show. In TV appearances and during his frequent slide shows and lectures he displayed a boyish enthusiasm for the animals—often giving them pet names—as well as what many thought to be an irresponsibly cavalier attitude toward danger. At a film festival in Telluride, he told reporters, “If I get eaten by bears, don’t feel bad for me, because I will be providing nourishment for them.”

One very vocal Treadwell supporter was the gear and outdoor clothing company Patagonia, which had given him $40,000 since 1995 to help fund his work. In a statement released today, company spokeswoman Lu Setnicka said, “Timothy was aware of the risks he took with his work and selflessly dedicated his life to the importance of protecting grizzly bears and their habitat. This commitment resulted in a complete engagement in his work, a characteristic fully evident to anyone fortunate enough to spend time with Timothy in person. Our deepest condolences go out to his family and friends.”

Park officials were unable to return to the campsite Tuesday, but plan to return soon to recover any remaining items, as well as partial remains of the bears that were shot, in hopes of determining whether the animals killed were those responsible for the incident. Quinley refused to speculate on whether the Park Service had any concerns over whether the bears killed were the ones involved in the incident, or whether any of the other estimated 50 bears in the area might have also fed on the remains and developed an appetite for humans.

“We’re never going to know which bears killed them,” he said. Reflecting on Treadwell’s legacy, he added, “The kind of bear-viewing and promotion he was doing was one of a kind. This is the sort of worst nightmare that we had.”

Anchorage Daily News article:

— Alan

Also found curious that he was a place on the Katmai cost where firearms were not permitted, one of the few places where this was so, though almost all Alaskan parks are noted because they do allow you to carry firearms for this very reason (bears and other animals that could pose a threat). Wonder why it was not allowed at that particular area.

— Alan

Speculation (coldly put): These bears, in those location, are more valuable than people? Sounds like they’re a rare or special breed of Grizzly (brown bear). EDIT just read that they had to destroy the bears. Ugh.

Interestingly, Disney has a new happy animated movie about these kinds of bears coming in just a couple weeks.