08-30-2005, 11:29 AM
Apparently now you must register to get the story, so here is the excerpt from another website
Treadwell book excerpt: Pilot makes grisly discovery
By NICK JANS
Published: August 28, 2005
Last Modified: August 28, 2005 at 07:43 AM
EDITOR'S NOTE: Few Alaska stories have captured the world's attention like the life and death of Timothy Treadwell, the Californian who spent 13 summers living among brown bears in Katmai National Park. Interest in the deaths of Treadwell and companion Amie Huguenard has peaked again with the movie "Grizzly Man" and the book "Grizzly Maze: Timothy Treadwell's Fatal Obsession With Alaskan Bears," released earlier this summer. Juneau writer Nick Jans tells a rich tale of Treadwell's bizarre life, his interactions with Alaskans and what happened on the Katmai coast. A warning: The following excerpt contains graphic detail of Treadwell's and Huguenard's deaths.
When Andrew Airways pilot Willy Fulton lands at Upper Kaflia Lake at 2 p.m. Oct. 6, 2003, things don't seem right. He's flown Tim Treadwell for years and is expecting the usual neat pile of gear down by the water's edge, ready for a quick load and fly-out. Neither did Treadwell make his customary contact with his hand-held VHF radio as the plane approached. Fulton taxis the Beaver into the tiny bay below camp. As he steps out onto the floats, he sees movement on the knoll. His view partly blocked by the brush, he figures it's a person shaking out a tarp. Things are all right after all. Tim and his companion, Amie Huguenard, were just somehow delayed, maybe the weather, a video opportunity, or a morning hike that went on too long. They'd better hurry; the weather isn't getting any better. Pounding rain and a lowering sky.
He calls out their names.
Silence. A little strange, but nothing to worry about.
Unarmed, clumping along in the floatplane pilot's standard footgear -- hip waders -- he starts the 80-yard climb up the more direct of two main bear trails that wind toward camp. "About halfway up, I got kind of an odd feeling," he says, "and decided to go back to the plane." He wants to take off, look things over from the air. Tim and Amie will probably be coming along through the brush from the creek, waving to him. The Beaver is moored to a clump of alders against the bank. Pausing to untie, Fulton glances over his shoulder. And behind him is a bear, coming fast and low, eerily silent, 20 feet away. As the pilot leaps to his floats and pushes off, the bear is a body length behind. Fulton scrambles into the cockpit and slams the door. The bear, a big, dark male, skids to a stop at the water's edge, eyes still fixed on him. Huffing, the bear paces the bank as the plane drifts out into the lake. Normally Fulton would have a shotgun in his plane, as per state regulations, but he's left it back in Kodiak.
"I've been charged by a few bears, but this was different," Fulton says. "He wasn't doing that usual bear-of-the-woods thing, acting big and bad. He was crouched down, sneaking on me. That look in his eye was real different too. Right then I felt like he was out to kill me and eat me." Fulton's heart is thumping. Now he knows something isn't right. The Beaver's engine rattles to life, and the bear fades into the alders.
Fulton is shaken by his own near scrape, but this is swept away by waves of dread. Maybe it happened this time, maybe he went too far. ... Oh, Jesus ... He taxis out into the center of the lake, turns into the wind, and takes off. Circling over the camp, he can see the tents -- still staked out but mashed flat. And in front of one he sees a large bear, the same one, he figures, feeding on human remains -- a rib cage for certain. But just one body -- someone's still alive down there. He makes pass after pass, 15 or 20, he figures, swooping lower and lower, trying to drive off the bear and looking for other signs of movement. "I just about knocked him off the body, I was so low," Fulton says. "The floats were maybe two or three feet over his head and I couldn't get any lower because of the brush." His voice has the same tone as if he's talking about weather, instead of high-stakes, screw-up-and-die flying. But the bear doesn't budge and, by the last few passes, doesn't even look up. "He just crouched down," Fulton remembers, "and ate faster."
There's no sign of anyone. Still, Tim or Amie -- he's not sure which -- could be hiding somewhere, maybe in one of the tents or out in the brush, maybe even a mile or two away. He taxis to different places on the upper lake, stops the engine, and calls, his voice echoing in the rain-swept silence. Then he takes off, flies to the lower lake and to different places in the bay, stopping and calling again and again. No answer.
Willy Fulton lands, taxis to the west end of the lake, and raises Andrew Airways, back in Kodiak. Operations manager Stan Divine in turn calls the Alaska State Troopers in Kodiak and the National Park Service in King Salmon, which is on the mainland, a hundred miles west of Kaflia, on the far side of the Alaska Peninsula. Ranger Joel Ellis takes the call at 2:35 p.m. Though he's in his first year in Alaska, just completing his first season at Katmai, he's had 20 years of experience as a ranger, including posts at Yellowstone and Grand Teton -- places with grizzlies.
Ellis immediately contacts Allen Gilliland, the Park Service pilot, to get the Park Service Cessna 206 floatplane ready. Then Ellis touches base with the state troopers, as well as the Alaska Department of Fish and Game. He relays a message through Andrew Airways, asking Fulton to wait where he is. Though it's Sunday afternoon and offices are closed, Ellis is able to make contact with both agencies. He also calls ranger Derek Dalrymple and tells him to hustle in. The rangers grab first aid gear and two Remington Model 870 pump shotguns -- preferred for their sure, nonjamming actions -- and boxes of rifled slugs. Ellis is wearing his .40-caliber Smith & Wesson service pistol. There's a strict protocol to be followed. Ellis is medic and operations commander of the rescue effort. With acting park superintendent Joe Fowler out of town, chief back-country ranger Missy Epping assumes the formal role as incident commander. She'll remain in King Salmon to supervise communication, pass the word up the chain of command, and get the paperwork moving. Unlike Ellis, who is new to Katmai, Epping has a personal stake in all this. She's known Treadwell for years and considers him a friend.
The Cessna is in the air less than an hour after Ellis takes the initial call. Ellis says, "At this point we were on a rescue mission, not knowing if people were dead or alive." On the other hand, Gilliland, planning for the worst, has brought along a couple of body bags from the King Salmon Police Department.
The two men accompanying Ellis, though selected by circumstance, might have been hand-picked for what lies ahead. Gilliland is more than just a pilot. He's an avid and skilled hunter who knows the country -- as well as a certified firearms instructor. Before he became a Park Service pilot, he was a cop in King Salmon for 16 years. Dalrymple, though a seasonal ranger, has been involved in investigating three previous bear-mauling incidents in the Lower 48. He is, as Gilliland later says, "very experienced -- a steady guy to have around."
Eighty miles away in Kodiak, state troopers Chris Hill and Allan Jones are airborne. The weather between King Salmon and Kaflia is getting iffy, closing down. Another fast-moving coastal storm is forecast, which may force the Park Service plane to turn back. The troopers are in radio contact with them; if everyone makes it, they'll rendezvous after landing at upper Kaflia Lake.
The Park Service plane runs into skeins of fog and rain, ceilings below 300 feet. Gilliland isn't sure they can make it in. Fulton tells them they damn well better. Someone may be alive, and he's not leaving. With him playing the role of air controller, the Park Service plane makes it through the weather and taxis down the lake. They confer with Fulton, who by now has been waiting for nearly three hours, alone in the world of unspoken fears, unable to help or do anything for his friends. He jumps in the 206, and they taxi the half mile east toward the outlet stream and the knoll. As they coast toward shore, Gilliland points out a bear on the hill, standing by one of the tents.
Ellis recalls, "We got out of the plane, guns ready. We were in a combat-ready situation, yelling for the people." The shouting is also to alert any bears in the area and drive them away. After tying up the plane, they immediately begin to move forward, hands clenched around weapons, still calling out for Treadwell and Huguenard. Ellis, Dalrymple, and Gilliland thread single file along the steep, narrow trail rising through the alders. Fulton, "amped up" as he says, clambers ahead of them, unarmed, and has to be reminded more than once to slow down. They break into the open below the crown of the knoll and pause, spreading out so that they can all fire at once if necessary. At Gilliland's urging, they decide to wait for Hill and Jones, who are just landing. Because of a lack of space in the tiny bay and overhanging alders everywhere else, the troopers will have to moor 200 yards down the shore and muscle their way along the bank through heavy brush. Gilliland suggests the troopers might have a large-caliber rifle, and the extra firepower could make a difference. Tense and dry-mouthed, standing in the cold deluge of rain, the four men remain facing uphill toward the crest of the grass-crowned knoll, where they last saw the bear. Off to their right is a marshy, open swale; ahead, a curtain of 8-foot alder brush and chest-high grass that restricts visibility to a few arm lengths. The bear trails that snake through the growth will require them, in places, to bend at the waist.
Gilliland, the pilot, channels his jitters into his eyes, scanning the brush in all directions. The threat, as it turns out, comes from the rear.
"Bear!" he shouts. It's less than 20 feet away, head low, moving silently toward them, its outline blurred by the alders. All four men yell repeatedly, throwing all their pent-up emotion into it, trying to haze the big male away. Instead of retreating -- as almost any bear would, from a tightly packed, aggressive, loud group of humans -- it stares straight at them and steps forward. In his official Incident Report, Ellis will write, "I perceived the bear was well aware of our presence and was stalking us. I believe that."
Gilliland concurs. "We were between the bear and its carcass, but it didn't charge us to defend it like most bears would do. It had circled around us and was coming quietly from the rear."
Fulton adds, "He had that same look in his eye. I think he meant to kill all of us."
The first movement toward them is enough of a signal to the men, whose nerves are stretched like piano wire. Ellis says, "We didn't confer. We all just started shooting." Fulton, who is between the men and the bear, finds himself literally in the crossfire.
"I just remember gun barrels swinging toward me," he says. With the bear a dozen feet away, he dives to the ground and the fusillade explodes overhead.
A half-ton brown bear, as experienced hunters know, can be almost impossible to stop, especially worked up, coming straight in. There are tales of magnum-caliber rounds -- slugs damn near the size of a thumb -- deflecting off the thick, sloped forehead, and charging animals absorbing incredible punishment, dead on their feet but still coming. Gilliland says he never saw one go down once and stay down. But the barrage unleashed by the rangers is staggering: five rounds each of one-ounce rifled shotgun slugs from Dalrymple and Gilliland, and 11 soft points from Ellis' .40 caliber semiautomatic handgun -- 19 shots in under 15 seconds, the booming crash of shotguns overlaid with the sharp, rapid crack of pistol fire.
Troopers Jones and Hill are just tying off their plane when they hear the volley. "I thought it was some sort of fancy multiple-report cracker shell the Park Service guys had," recalls Jones, referring to the shotgun-fired noisemakers often used to scare off aggressive bears. "It was a continuous series of shots, quite a racket."
Gilliland's report reads, "I fired five rounds ... with one hit to the head below the eye and four hits to the neck and shoulder." In retrospect, Gilliland feels his first shot killed the bear instantly. But given his experience and the extreme close range, he didn't take chances.
Ranger Dalrymple's version is more laconic: "I shot until the threat was stopped."
The big bear drops in his tracks, twitches, sighs out one last breath, and is dead. The men stand stunned in the rain, wrapped in a cloud of acrid powder smoke, their ears ringing and their breath steaming into the air. They're alive. Ellis paces off the distance separating him and the bear: 12 feet. Gilliland says later, "If it was an all-out charge, he would have taken down one of us."
Pilot Willy Fulton is back on his feet. "I want to look that bear in the eyes," he says. He studies the blood-spattered face, the small, rapidly glazing pupils, and says he's sure it's the same bear that chased him to the plane, the same one he saw on the knoll. The four men continue the last 30 yards to the campsite, no less on edge. Below, the troopers are in sight, making their way through the brush along the lakeshore.
The tents are tucked back in the alders, both crushed down but intact; either a bear has walked over them or someone has fallen against them, but the fabric's neither ripped up nor bloody. In front of the sleeping tent is a large mound of mud, grass and sticks. Several metal bear-resistant food containers are scattered on the north side of the camp in some disarray, but sealed and unmarked by claws or teeth. However, it's the mound in front of the first tent, where the bear had stood, that captures the would-be rescuers' attention. There in the muck is what lead ranger Ellis later calls, his voice tight, "fresh flesh" -- fingers and an arm protruding from the pile.
There is also a chunk of organ Gilliland believes is a kidney. Digging into the bear's cache will reveal further horror. At least one person is gone, but there's still the possibility of a survivor.
While Gilliland goes down to the lake to meet troopers Hill and Jones, Fulton and Ellis explore the tents. Dalrymple stands guard with his shotgun. Since both tents are flattened, Ellis decides the quickest way in is to slash the fabric with his knife. Someone could still be inside, unconscious and torn up, but alive. But they find only clothing and camping and camera gear, most of it stowed neatly. Food in small Ziploc bags, ready to be eaten, as if lunch had been interrupted. Sleeping tent unzipped. Gear tent zipped shut.
By this time, Jones and Hill are on the scene. With unmistakable evidence of at least one fatality, the investigation is officially handed over to the Alaska state troopers. Hill is the officer in charge. The troopers brief everyone on crime scene protocol -- the same rules apply here -- and begin documenting the area. Hill takes a couple of minutes of shaky videotape of the wreckage. Ellis and Dalrymple backtrack to the Park Service plane to bring up notebooks and cameras as well. Meanwhile, Gilliland, ever vigilant, spots a bear -- an enormous dark male drifting silently up the same trail he and the troopers have just used. Vision screened by the brush and grass, Gilliland doesn't see it until it's practically on top of them. The animal seems equally unaware -- just traveling the same trail it has for years, every step locked in memory. This guy is bigger than the last one. Just before denning, his muscular frame sheathed in fat, he's at his maximum weight, maybe 1,200 pounds. Bear! Gilliland shouts.
Jangled as everyone's nerves are, it's a miracle no one shoots. Fulton, Gilliland and the troopers shout and wave. The bear seems nonplussed by the commotion. He considers briefly and shifts into a lumbering lope, off down the hill -- leaving, but with his dignity intact. Just another Katmai bear. Gilliland shouts a heads-up to Ellis and Dalrymple. They stand on the Cessna's floats and watch the bear stroll off to the west, then walk up the hill to join the others. For a time, everyone is busy with shooting photos and jotting notes, freezing the scene in time. Ellis asks if someone should do a perimeter check. Gilliland volunteers. He backtracks to where the dead bear lies in the alders. Skirting the edge of the knoll, weaving on a search pattern through the brush he's a stone's toss from the others, yet totally cut off.
Gilliland is about halfway around his circle when he finds what's left of Timothy Treadwell -- a head missing most of its scalp; part of a shoulder, some connecting tissue, and two forearms. The face, recognizable and uncrushed, is caught in a grimace. Fulton accompanies Hill down to photograph and collect the remains. Washed by the steady rain, everything is surprisingly bloodless. The wrists and face are pale, like wax. While they're working, Gilliland hears a bear popping its jaws, a clear signal of stress and possible aggression. The animal is close, but the brush is too thick to see anything. Fulton and Hill make their way up the knoll with the body bag, and Gilliland, despite the bear, continues his circling of the knoll. He finds nothing more and returns to the camp.
The others, excavating the cache, have discovered another head with face intact -- Amie seems peacefully asleep -- as well as some flesh-stripped bones, miscellaneous scraps, and portions of a torso.
Describing the remains, Ellis sounds like he's struggling for the right words, something to mitigate the horror. "It was way past the initial stages," he tells me. "One or more bears had time to eat most of two bodies and cache the remains. There was no clothing attached to any part. There wasn't much left of anything. We could not tell male from female." When I ask for more detail, he repeats, "We could not tell male from female." Then he says, after a pause, "One part had a watch on it."
Four men break camp and collect Timothy and Amie's gear. Each makes several trips down the now-familiar bear trail to the lake. Meanwhile, Gilliland taxis Fulton back to his plane at the other end of the lake. His Beaver will carry the remains and gear to Kodiak, where the troopers will continue the investigation. (The body bags are so light -- 40 pounds at the most between them -- that the medical examiner meeting the plane will ask for the rest.)
(Continued in next post.)
08-30-2005, 11:30 AM
(Continued from previous post.)
While Fulton is warming up his plane, Gilliland taxis back.
As he's hiking up the knoll one last time, he hears trooper Hill yell, Bear! Gilliland can see it moving in the brush, circling from the right toward Ellis and Hill, who are to his left. Dalrymple and Jones are to the right and behind, standing by the pile of gear on the lake shore. About 30 feet separates the three men in front and the bear. It's a much smaller animal, probably a 3-year-old -- the kind of bear that most often gets in trouble with people.
Driven off by their mothers and on their own for the first time, some are timid and uncertain; others curious and apparently eager for company; a few aggressive, testing the boundaries, seeing how far they can push things. Teenagers, in other words. There's nothing abnormal about the bear's approach, but its timing couldn't be worse. The men have all had enough -- all of them tired and raw-nerved. Still, they hold off. Everyone waves and yells the by-now-familiar mantra, their voices low and forceful: Hey, bear! Ahhh! Get outta here!
Vision obscured by a clump of alder, Gilliland circles to his right. He yells to the others that he's going to take a warning shot. There is little reaction from the bear, which continues closing the distance between itself and Ellis -- then turns to go, but circles back, ears forward and staring. It's far too persistent -- either overly curious or aggressive That's it. Ellis shouts for Gilliland to take a shot if he has one. Gilliland replies that he doesn't. The bear moves into a window in the brush, still closing the distance, and Hill and Ellis open fire with their slug-loaded 12-gauge pump guns -- once each. The bear turns, giving Gilliland a momentary opening. He shoots twice. The bear falls and struggles to get up. Gilliland moves in and makes a killing shot to the base of the skull. Four dead now -- two people, two bears. No one takes comfort in the grim mathematical symmetry.
It's now after 6 p.m., the light fading and the weather deteriorating. Wind rattles in the alders, scattering leaves and ruffling the dark water of Kaflia Lake.
All three planes have an hour of flying ahead and will be landing on the water in near darkness. There's no time to do a necropsy on the dead bears -- open them up and see what's in the gastrointestinal tract, discover if they even have the bears involved in the predation. That job will have to wait for Fish and Game tomorrow, weather willing. It's a task better suited to trained biologists, anyway.
One by one, the three planes taxi east, turn, and roar down the lake in the dusk -- Ellis, Dalrymple and Gilliland in the Park Service Cessna 206, bound for King Salmon; troopers Jones and Hill in their Super Cub headed for Kodiak; and Willy Fulton in the Andrew Airways Beaver, alone with his gruesome load and his thoughts. Six men ride the currents of the sky, rising away from this place of darkness and death. But Kaflia will stir on its haunches and follow them the rest of their lives.
From "The Grizzly Maze" by Nick Jans. Reprinted by arrangement with Dutton, a member of Penguin Group (USA) Inc. Copyright 2005 by Nick Jans.
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