Timothy Treadwell Biography

Timothy Treadwell, also known as the ‘Grizzly Man’, was an American documentary filmmaker and environmentalist. Despite a troubled past, Timothy found solace studying the grizzly bears of Alaska and became popular after writing a book about his experiences. Tragically, his life came to an end when he and his girlfriend were attacked and killed by a brown bear while camping in the Katmai National Park. His story gained worldwide attention through filmmaker Werner Herzog’s documentary film ‘Grizzly Man’.

Quick Facts

  • Also Known As: Timothy William Dexter
  • Died At Age: 46
  • Family:
    • Father: Val Dexter
    • Mother: Carol Dexter
    • Siblings: Vikki Pless
  • Born Country: United States
  • Directors
  • Environmental Activists
  • Height: 5’11” (180 cm), 5’11” Males
  • Died on: October 6, 2003
  • Place of death: Katmai National Park and Preserve, Alaska, United States
  • Cause of Death: Fatal Bear Attack
  • Diseases & Disabilities: Bipolar Disorder
  • U.S. State: New Yorkers

Childhood & Early Life

Timothy Treadwell was born Timothy William Dexter, on April 29, 1957, in Long Island, New York, to Carol and Val Dexter. He was born into a middle-class family and was one among five children in the family. While growing up, he was an athletic young man and was a part of the Connetquot High School’s diving team.

Since his earlier years, he was an animal lover and kept many pets at different points during his growing up years. As per his parents, Timothy grew up as a normal young kid. However, his teenage years were not ideal, and he faced troubles in his household, which led his high school grades to remain low.

Somehow he completed his high school graduation and moved to Southern California to begin his college education. However, his troubled behavior did not halt even when he was in college, and he gave auditions for several roles in television, but he failed every time. This perpetual failure left a great impact on him and led him to indulge in alcohol, and then heroin and cocaine.

The biggest blow to him, as per his father, was his failure to bag a role in the sitcom titled ‘Cheers’, the role which eventually went to Woody Harrelson.

In the late 1980s, Timothy Treadwell was at the peak of his drug abuse and had an overdose of cocaine and heroin, which almost took his life. He was hospitalized and somehow survived that. He was saved by a Vietnam veteran named Terry, who had become his close friend by then.

Terry was a bear enthusiast and he advised Timothy to change his ways in life and study bears. Timothy took the advice and moved to Alaska, which became a turning point for his life and career.


Timothy Treadwell began setting up camps in Alaska, in Hallo Bay at the Katmai Coast, the area which was known as the ‘Grizzly Sanctuary’. He later claimed that when he set his eyes upon the first bear after moving to Alaska, he knew that he had found his calling in life. He gives bears the credit to get him off the drugs and alcoholism.

However, his initial experience with bears was not ideal. The first grizzly bear that he saw ran away upon seeing Timothy, which somehow saddened him.

Timothy Treadwell was all alone during his expeditions and was spotted by a filmmaker Mark Emery in the early 1990s when he had set up a camp in the ‘Grizzly Sanctuary’. Timothy told Mark that he did not want to stay there anymore as bears had begun entering his camps and he was scared for his life.

He moved back to California, now completely sober and brimming with a new hope inside him. He did odd jobs there, such as bartending. He, along with his girlfriend at that time, began a non-profit group ‘Grizzly People’ to fund his trips to Alaska to further study bears.

Over the next few years, Timothy Treadwell began visiting Alaska at the beginning of every season to study bears. He became extremely popular overtime, owing to his ability to go extremely near to the grizzly bears and he also played with their cubs. Grizzly bears were known to be an extremely dangerous animal, while Timothy wanted to prove that the opposite was true.

He claimed that he was very careful while touching bears and going near them. He also said that he had developed a sense of mutual trust and respect with the animal. He further stated that he saw many of the same bears every time he went to Alaska and had built a relationship with them, also naming the bears.

Towards the end of summers, he would move to Kaflia Bay, which he called the Grizzly Maze. It was the time and place where the chances of getting in touch with bears were the highest.

However, he was also notorious among the National Park servicemen as they claimed that he had broken the rules many times as he stayed for longer than he legally could and got too close to the bears. He faced six park violation charges between 1994 and 2003 and also broke several guidelines on storing food and other equipment. He also refused to carry ‘bear spray’, which could have been used to safeguard oneself after a bear attack.

Timothy Treadwell recorded almost 100 hours of documentary footage, which was later cobbled together to create a documentary called ‘Grizzly Man’. He also took many photographs.

In 1997, he wrote a book titled ‘Among Grizzlies: Living with Wild Bears in Alaska’. The book became popular, especially among the bear enthusiasts.

By the early 2000s, he had become a known man in the country owing to vast media attention. He has also become a subject of curiosity among the environmentalists around the country. Around the same time, he was invited to speak at many conferences as an environmental activist. He also toured around the schools in the country to educate children about grizzly bears. He was invited by the Discovery Channel and the Late Show with David Letterman to share his experiences of living among the bears.

Charlie Russell was a Canadian bear enthusiast and a big fan of Timothy’s work. However, he critiqued Timothy’s adamant behavior on not keeping enough safety precautions but also praised him for his works to educate people about bears.

However, throughout his stay among the bears in Alaska, the National Park Service kept having conflicts with Timothy. At first, he used to alone, but overtime, other people began accompanying him. He had no license as a guide, despite that, he guided tourists through the park.

Initially, he also followed safety protocols and carried pepper spray with him and also used it on one occasion. But he later said that he felt terrible grief over the pain that he had caused the bear and refused to carry the spray on subsequent occasions, which eventually became the cause of his death.

Personal Life & Death

Timothy Treadwell dated a budding physician named Amie Huguenard from the late 1990s until his death. She had read his book ‘Among Grizzlies’ and became a fan of him. Love blossomed between the two eventually.

In October 2003, Timothy and Amie visited Alaska and set up their camps. It was a dangerous time to be among the bears as the grizzlies are aggressively on the lookout for food that time of the year.

On October 6, the remains of Timothy and Amy were found on the campsite. Their bodies had been severely disfigured. It was the first incidence of a bear attack on a person in the Katmai National Park.

A video tape was recovered from the site which had recorded six minutes of only audio, where Timothy can be heard screaming while he was getting mauled by the bear. German filmmaker Werner Herzog made a documentary film titled ‘Grizzly Man’, which was released in 2005. The film used footage shot by Timothy, along with some additional shots.

A mini-series titled ‘The Grizzly Man’ debuted on Animal Planet in 2008, which used Timothy’s diary entries, photographs, and video footage that he had shot over the years.

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