"Grizzly Man" Movie Spurs New Looks at a Grisly Death

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Katmai park rangers shot the thousand-pound (450-kilogram) male responsible for Treadwell and Huguenard's deaths after their bodies were found. A second, younger bear was also killed when it became aggressive.

Bear biologist Lance Craighead says the deaths of Treadwell and his girlfriend created a lot of bad publicity for bears. But, he says, the New York-born Treadwell also inspired people with his message that grizzly bears should be protected and preserved.

"Treadwell did more good than harm," said Craighead, director of the Craighead Environmental Research Institute in Bozeman, Montana. "He sure reached a lot of schoolchildren—he spent most of his winters talking to schoolkids about bears."

Treadwell "pushed the envelope" when it came to taking risks, Craighead said, which may have encouraged others to do the same.

"I think he was trying to make the bears habituated to him so that they knew him personally," the biologist added. "People have done that with a lot of animals, such as gorillas and chimpanzees. It works, up to a point. But there's always likely to be a 'bad bear' that you might just run into."

Treadwell "must have had thousands of bear encounters. Finally he had one which went wrong," he said.

Craighead says he has managed to avoid hairy moments of his own during fieldwork in grizzly country.

"I don't get close enough to touch them, for one thing," he said. "I also carry bear spray [generally a pepper-based repellent] with me. I think it would have been a good thing if [Treadwell] had had it in his tent, even if he didn't want to carry it around."

Bear Maulings

Treadwell isn't alone in getting too close to grizzlies.

The Center for Wildlife Information reports increased incidences of grizzly bear maulings due to human misadventure. U.S and Canadian national parks such as Yellowstone, Glacier, Jasper, and Banff have been forced to hire extra rangers to keep bear-friendly visitors back.

In Yellowstone National Park visitors are asked to stay at least a hundred yards (90 meters) from bears.

Parkgoers are warned that if they get within a bear's "individual distance," the bear might charge. And the animals are powerful enough to kill with a single blow.

"Two years ago we counted 200 people standing within five feet [one and a half meters] of grizzly bears in Yellowstone," Bartlebaugh, of the Center for Wildlife Information, said. "Those bears are now dead."

Some had to be culled because they became too aggressive after having been habituated to humans, some of whom fed the bears, he said. Others were hit by cars or shot by hunters who found themselves threatened.

"If people had not habituated those bears, they would still be around, helping the recovery of the population," Bartlebaugh added.

"We as humans have to be diligent about being around these beautiful animals. You don't move away because the bear is going to kill you. You move away because you want the bear to be wild."

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