We all know that some people like to live their lives on the edge, their feet dangling off the precipice and sneering in the face of danger. Maybe it’s the adrenaline rush they feel when they wage a war with death and come out the other side a victor. Maybe they just weren’t cut out for white picket fences and traffic jams and the news at 11:00. Maybe they feel like they’ve somehow freed themselves from the shackles of society and have this inner calling to test their limits against nature and everything it can throw at them. Yes, they are the free spirits of our day and sometimes we almost look at them with a sense of envy when their feats are documented on such shows depicted on the Discovery Channel as we sit in our living rooms with our feet propped up with a Coke and a bag of chips to keep us company.
But then again, maybe some of them are just plain freakin’ nuts.
I mean, take the case of Timothy Treadwell. What else would you call a guy who chucks it all and goes off to live among the grizzly bears?
That’s exactly what Timothy Treadwell did for thirteen years starting in 1990. For three or four months out of the year, he’d go into Alaska’s Katmai National Park and pitch his tent right amongst the bears and make himself at home. He’d go so far as to walk right up to the bears and try to pet them and even started singing to them in a falsetto type voice saying how much he loved them. When asked about his odd behavior, he said he felt safer being next to them than he was when jogging in Central Park in his native New York.
Naturally, park officials weren’t too pleased with his “research methods” and felt that it would encourage similar behavior from other aspiring copy cats and threatened to ban him from the park altogether . Other more established researchers in his field constantly warned him about his unorthodox approach and feared for his safety. He claimed that his only brush with danger came back in 1995 when he held back a charging bear that went by the name of Cupcake by blasting it the face with some pepper spray. He even managed to convince his girlfriend about the fruits of his endeavor and she joined him on his unarmed excursions into the wild.
As it turn out, the experts were right…
On October 6, 2003, a buddy of Treadwell’s flew his plane into the park. His intent was to pick them up before the long cold winter sat in. What he came upon was a nightmare.
As he lowered the plane over Treadwell’s campsite all he saw at first was a flattened tent. As he buzzed around for a closer look he saw what he thought was a bear sitting on top of what looked like a human body. He came in lower and tried to scare the bear off but the bear refused to move. Sensing what might have happened, he got on the horn to the Alaskan State Troopers who arrived on the scene two days later and were shocked at what they saw. The tent seemed to have been ransacked and Treadwell and his girlfriend were nowhere to be found. They packed up what belongings they could before they were scared off by a marauding grizzly.
They returned a couple of days later and resumed their search. A little ways away, they discovered what little was left of the bodies. They were partially buried and as they were being unearthed another grizzly arrived on the scene. Perhaps he was protecting his kill, perhaps he was just curious but the rangers were taking no chances. They shot and killed him.
An autopsy on the bear determined that it had clothes and human flesh still in its digestive system.
As disturbing as this sounds, it get worse. While going through Treadwell’s possessions, they came up with a video camera. The last tape in it is frightening to say the least. Apparently, sometime during the evening, a bear had wandered over to the tent. Treadwell went outside to try and scare him off and his girlfriend went for the video camera. Not realizing that the lens cap was still on, all that’s heard at first is Treadwell screaming “I’m getting killed!” His girlfriend went out to try and help him but all the tape purportedly reveals is that for six long minutes, the only thing you hear is the sound of screams. The screams then turn to moans and the moans turn to silence that is only occasionally interrupted by the grunting from the bear.
A movie directed by Werner Herzog detailing Treadwell’s expoits called “Grizzly Man” is coming soon to theater near you.
I think there’s an old saying somewhere that goes something along the lines of “Some days you get the bear, some days the bear gets you.” In hindsight, Mr. Treadwell probably should have taken heed of that. After all, thirteen years of doing just about anything is pushing your luck.
Failing that, he could have just read The Bear FAQ and saved himself all the trouble.