Wednesday, July 1, 2009
In October 2003, Treadwell and his girlfriend, a physician's assistant, Amie Huguenard, visited Katmai National Park in Alaska. In the film Grizzly Man, Werner Herzog states that Amie had a fear of bears and felt deeply uncomfortable in their presence. Treadwell chose to set his campsite near a salmon stream where grizzlies commonly feed in the fall. Treadwell was in the park later in the year than usual, at a time when bears fight to gain as much fat as possible before winter and limited food supplies cause them to be more aggressive than in other months. Food was scarce that fall, so the grizzly bears were even more aggressive than usual.
Treadwell was supposed to leave the park at his usual time of year, but he had a disagreement with the airline about his ticket and decided to stay longer in the park. The bears he had been used to during the summer had already gone into hibernation, and bears that Treadwell did not know from other parts of the park were moving into the area. The very last footage that shows Treadwell alive also shows a bear behind him; the bear had been diving into the river over and over for a piece of dead salmon. Treadwell mentions in the footage that he does not feel altogether comfortable with that bear.
Around noon on Sunday, October 5, 2003, Treadwell spoke with an associate in Malibu, California by satellite phone. Treadwell mentioned no problems with any bears. The next day, October 6, the bodies of Treadwell and Huguenard were discovered by Willy Fulton, the Kodiak air taxi pilot who arrived at their campsite to pick them up. Treadwell's disfigured head, partial backbone, and right forearm/hand still wearing his wrist watch were recovered at the scene. Huguenard's partial remains were found near the encampment, somewhat buried in a mound of twigs and dirt. A large male grizzly (tagged Bear 141) protecting the campsite was killed by park rangers while they attempted to retrieve the bodies. A second adolescent bear was killed a short time later after it charged the park rangers. A necropsy revealed human body parts such as fingers and limbs. It is not clear from any evidence or the audio recording if either of these two bears killed the couple. In the 85-year history of Katmai National Park, this was the first incident of a person being killed by a bear.
A video camera was recovered at the site. According to Alaska State Trooper spokesman Greg Wilkinson, no pictures were found on the tape. This fact led troopers to believe the attack might have happened while the camera was stuffed in a duffel bag or during the dark of night. The camera had been turned on at some point before the attack, presumably by Huguenard, but the camera recorded only six minutes of audio before running out of tape. The tape is now the property of Jewel Palovak and has not been released to the public. In Grizzly Man filmmaker Werner Herzog listens to the recording and then urges Palovak to destroy it. In the follow-up mini-series "The Grizzly Man Diaries", Palovak admitted she still owns the tape, but has not listened to its contents and said she hopes she never does.