CBSN

Delay Was Fatal For Bear Lover

brown bear
AP (file)
Timothy Treadwell, the self-taught bear expert who was mauled to death in a bear attack, was supposed to return to California last week, and stayed on in Alaska to catch a glimpse of a favorite bear.

Jewel Palovak, program director of Grizzly People, which is dedicated to preserving bears, and one of the last people to talk to Treadwell, told The Early Show co-anchor Julie Chen that Treadwell couldn't find his favorite bear, Downey, and stayed on in the Katmai National Park and Preserve to see whether he could locate her.

The bodies of Treadwell, 46, and Amie Huguenard, 37, both of Malibu, Calif., were found Monday at their campsite by a pilot who was supposed to take them to Kodiak, state troopers said Tuesday.

Treadwell, co-author of "Among Grizzlies: Living With Wild Bears in Alaska," spent more than a dozen summers living alone with and videotaping Katmai bears. Information on Huguenard was not immediately available.

Palovak said Treadwell was there to protect the brown bears from poachers. "Timothy was there at this time of year in this area of Alaska because this has been, historically, one of the most heavily poached areas," she explained.

Treadwell was supposed to return to his California home last week, but he ended up staying.

Palovak explained, "He mentioned to me that he had not seen his favorite bear, Downey, and he couldn't live with himself if he didn't - if he didn't try and go back and find her. He also knew there was a big salmon run and that would mean that there were more bears there and more chance to get footage for our educational campaign."

And, indeed, Treadwell was successful in finding Downey. Palovak says, "I spoke to him Sunday. He told me it was the best decision he had ever made. He was thrilled to have gotten to see her and he was happy that he did what his heart told him to do."

On Monday, the Andrew Airways pilot contacted troopers in Kodiak and the National Park Service after he saw a brown bear, possibly on top of a body, at the camp near Kaflia Bay.

Park rangers encountered a large, aggressive male brown bear within minutes of arriving. Ranger Joel Ellis said two officers stood by with shotguns as he fired 11 times with a semi-automatic handgun before the animal fell, 12 feet away.

"That was cutting it thin," said Ellis, the lead investigator. "I didn't take the time to count how many times it was hit."

The victims' remains and camping equipment were flown Monday to Kodiak. Ellis said investigators hope to glean some information from video and still cameras.

As the plane was being loaded, another aggressive bear approached and was killed by rangers and troopers. The bear was younger, possibly a 3-year-old, according to Bruce Bartley of the Alaska Department of Fish and Game.

The victims' bodies were flown to the state medical examiner's office for autopsy.

Dean Andrew, owner of Andrew Airways, said the pilot was too upset to comment. The company had been flying Treadwell to Katmai for 13 years and Huguenard for the last couple of years. Andrew said Treadwell was an experienced outdoorsman.

Treadwell was known for his confidence around bears. He often touched them, and gave them names. Once, he was filmed crawling along the ground singing as he approached a sow and two cubs.

Palovak notes, "Timothy would never have harmed the bear, even if his life was in question. He had utmost respect for them and he felt that they let him into their world, that he was the observer and that he was the guest and that he knew that they had the ability to terminate him at any time and he would never have harmed a bear."

Over the years, Park Service officials, biologists and others expressed concern about his safety and the message he was sending.

"At best, he's misguided," Deb Liggett, superintendent at Katmai, told the Anchorage Daily News in 2001. "At worst he's dangerous. If Timothy models unsafe behavior, that ultimately puts bears and other visitors at risk."

That same year, Treadwell was a guest on the "Late Show with David Letterman," describing Alaska brown bears as mostly harmless "party animals."

In his book, Treadwell said he decided to devote himself to saving grizzlies after a drug overdose, followed by several close calls with brown bears in early trips to Alaska. He said those experiences inspired him to give up drugs, study bears and establish a nonprofit bear-appreciation group, called Grizzly People.

Grizzly and brown bears are the same species, but "brown" is used to describe bears in coastal areas and "grizzly" for bears in the interior.

The deaths are the first known bear killings in the 4.7-million-acre park on the Alaska Peninsula.