In Defense of Timothy Treadwell and Amie Huguenard

By Captain Paul Watson

On October 12th, the Anchorage Daily News published a column by Mike Doogan, self-described "True Alaskan".

My initial response to Doogan's column is directly below. Following my response is a copy of his original column. Below the column is an exchange of words with Mr. Doogan via email. This should help to understand the warped perspective that a few Alaskans have of their State and the wildlife that inhabits it.

At the bottom of Doogan's column is his telephone and e-mail address - feel free to drop him a comment or two.

Mr. Doogan,

Obviously you never met Timothy Treadwell or attended one of his presentations. Tim had no illusions about how dangerous bears are. He knew they were dangerous. But he also knew that they were not as dangerous or as shallow as some of his fellow human beings.

For thirteen years, Tim lived his summers in Alaska bear country without carrying a gun. Try to walk though some of our nation's cities unarmed and see how far you get.

I was with Tim on the ice floes of Eastern Canada when he was filming seals and my impression of him was that he was a courageous man who was very much aware of the risks that he took. He took these risks because he believed they were worth taking. He was a volunteer in the conservation movement and he was dedicated to the conservation and protection of bears.

Tim's work opened up a different perspective on bears and his message to school children is that we have no right to exterminate or extirpate the bear

I prefer Tim's approach to that of the sport hunter who views the taking of a life and the destruction of such a magnificent animal as a pleasurable perversion.

By the way Mike, a few hunters have been killed over the years by bears. In your opinion, were they also foolish or is carrying a gun a justification for their mistake in bear country because they were "prepared"?

I have many bears in my area in Southeast Alaska, both brown and black. They sometimes sit on my front porch. I walk for miles in the Tongass without a gun and never needed one. I'm not a fool Mr. Doogan, I've made it to fifty-three years of age swimming with sharks and tracking and hunting poachers. You may choose to carry a firearm but don't force your cowardly views on everyone else.

Tim Treadwell rode the odds for almost a decade and a half and he may have possibly made a mistake in judgment that led to his death. It happens. That's life. Amie Huguenard was also very much aware of the danger of living amongst grizzlies. This was her third year among the bears.

These two people had every right to take the risks that they chose to take. It was their decision to experience nature the way they chose to do so.

There is by the way no documented evidence of anyone dying in Glacier National Park because they read Tim's book and duplicated his activities. Was this a fabrication or just your spin on another incident involving bears and people?

You were also incorrect about Diane Fossey. She was not a trained biologist. She was an occupational therapist when Louis Leakey recruited her to work with the Mountain Gorillas and both Diane and Tim shared one very important thing in common - they loved their subjects and worked tirelessly without pay in harsh conditions to study their respective species. Diane was killed by a poacher, a type of human being far more dangerous than a Grizzly bear. Perhaps you considered her foolish also.

Tim told me many times that he would most likely die from a bear or poacher attack. He said it would be preferable to dying of old age, from a car-jacking, or an automobile accident. He did not intend to die that way, he was simply aware of the chances that he was taking. The fact that he was not suicidal is evidenced by his attempts to defend himself from the bear. Amie Huguenard displayed great courage in defending Tim and you reward her courage by labeling her and Tim as fools. So easy to disrespect the dead, so easy to muckrake people no longer able to defend themselves.

Were you aware, Mr. Doogan, that Tim and Amie were scheduled to have left Katmai but had to stay to keep an eye on a poacher in the area?

Are you aware, Mr. Doogan, that this case is still under investigation and all the facts are not yet in? There is a possibility that the offending bear may have been wounded. And if so, by who or what? Like Diane Fossey, it may turn out that it was a poacher that brought down Tim and Amie by wounding a bear.

We don't yet know all the facts. What we do know is that this bear acted contrary to any bear in Timothy's thirteen years of experience and this suggests that there is more here than meets the eye.

And you slander them further by jumping from their deaths to a link with attacks on goose and duck breeders. What the hell does that have to do with anything that Tim and Amie were doing? Absolutely nothing - but it is your intention to place an association of criminality in the mind of your readers and it is a very cowardly device, Mr. Doogan.

As for your conclusion that ducks and geese exist to be eaten. It can be said just as easily that humans exist to be eaten by bears. In Neolithic times, a great many humans provided meals for cave bears and other predators. If it is your rationale that ducks and geese are meant to be eaten (as instructed by God who relayed this fact to you, I suppose) then the same logic implies that humans are meant to be eaten by bears.

If this is so, the death of Timothy and Amie is more natural than the unnatural deaths they may have suffered in an auto accident or a shooting. Unless of course, you think that humans are meant to be killed in auto accidents or from gunshot wounds.

Animals, as you say, do not have human thoughts or feelings, Mr.Doogan, but they do have thoughts and feelings. If bears thought and felt like humans they would be a truly vicious, unpredictable and extremely dangerous species - as we indeed are. Animals are not vegetables. Your knowledge of biology is very limited. Please don't confuse zoology with botany.

But what I don't understand is how you imply indirectly at the end of your column that Tim and Amie were acting criminally, and that they had nothing to offer but mushy thinking and vegetables.

You call yourself an Alaskan. I'm an Alaskan also and when I remember Timothy Treadwell, I remember a man who has spent thirteen summers in the wilderness living unarmed amongst grizzly bears. This was an Alaskan if I ever saw one despite spending his winters touring the lower forty eight with his message of bear conservation.

Tim would not have had to come to Alaska if our short-sighted fore-bearers had not exterminated the brown bear from California, leaving it to mock our ecological stupidly by remaining on the state flag.

Timothy Treadwell was no granola eating chardonnay sipping yuppie tree hugger. He was a man of unique courage and vision who entered the world of the bears armed only with a camera. He died in the wilderness, doing what he loved to do, enjoying life to the fullest.

He was my friend and he was a friend of the bears and of nature. Have some respect man before you flap your ignorant anthropocentric jaws about someone you did not know and knew little about.

Here's a little quote from Teddy Roosevelt that places your comments in the proper perspective: "It is not the critic who counts, not the one who points out how the strong man stumbled or how the doer of deeds might have done better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred with sweat and dust and blood; who strives valiantly; who errs and comes short again and again; who knows the great enthusiasms, the great devotions, and spends himself in a worthy cause; who, if he wins, knows the triumph of high achievement; and who, if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly, so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who know neither victory or defeat."

You, Mr. Doogan, appear to me to be one of those cold and timid souls.

-Capt Paul Watson

Mike Doogan column originally published by Anchorage Daily News, Oct 12, 2003:

Forgetting to treat animals like animals isn't safe -- or even sane By Mike Doogan

A couple of recent stories highlight the continuing inability of some people to understand animals, or the proper relationship between them and humans.

One, of course, is the death of Timothy Treadwell, who was killed and eaten by a bear last week in Katmai National Park and Preserve.

Treadwell had made a career of behaving dangerously around brown bears: getting too close, touching them, naming them. He went into the wild with no protection against bears, telling friends he thought he knew the bears so well he didn't need it.

He also wrote and spoke a lot of nonsense about the bears, on one memorable occasion calling them "party animals" on a television talk show, as if they were frat boys in fur coats.

If this nonsense had only killed Treadwell, we could simply write his behavior off as suicide by bear. But it didn't. It also killed his companion, Amie Huguenard, and, so far, two brown bears. I'm sorry, but I don't know what names Treadwell may have given the dead bears.

The damage done by Treadwell's misguided beliefs is apparently not limited to this incident. Treadwell had himself filmed behaving foolishly and wrote a book about his exploits. According to one of his critics, this impressed a couple in Glacier National Park so much that they imitated him by going off into the brush and were killed by a bear.

And, God help us, Treadwell apparently spent some of his time "teaching" schoolchildren about bears. There's no telling how many others he had encouraged to be stupid about brown bears.

If you listen carefully, you can hear the presses gearing up to print the inevitable book lionizing Treadwell and his loony behavior. He's not without defenders. Joel Bennett, an Alaska wildlife filmmaker who should know better, compared him to Dian Fossey.

Let's see. Fossey was a trained naturalist. Treadwell wasn't. She was studying shy, vegetarian mountain gorillas and trying to protect them from poachers. He was messing around with some of the most aggressive meat eaters on the planet. She was murdered, probably by poachers. He was killed and eaten by a bear. So you can see how Bennett could think the two were alike.

Treadwell had been warned many times that his behavior was dangerous. He replied that he preferred to die as part of a bear's meal. But a tape recording of part of the fatal bear attack shows he changed his mind, calling on Huguenard to come and help him. According to the evidence at the site, she did and was killed herself.

If Treadwell went looking for death, and didn't like what he found, in his native state of California there are others who don't like what they find and threaten others.

Some of them plant bombs at companies they claim use animals in scientific tests. Others set fires at meat-packing plants. And a group that calls itself Gourmet Cruelty is liberating ducks to keep them from being force fed to produce foie gras. Someone -- someone too cowardly to claim responsibility -- has also vandalized a restaurant and threatened a chef over the use of foie gras.

Foie gras is French for fat liver. It is considered a delicacy. Farmers produce it by force-feeding domestic fowl, male ducks and geese. The practice has been going on since the ancient Egyptians. There is no evidence the practice hurts the fowl, which are going to be killed anyway.

So what's the objection? Like Treadwell with the bears, animal rights activists anthropomorphize the practice, arguing that since humans wouldn't like to be force fed through a tube, ducks and geese don't like it either. That seems to be debatable, duck and goose physiology being quite different from human. But even if it's not, so what? Why do you suppose ducks and geese exist? To write philosophical treatises?

Nope, they exist to be eaten. If we don't eat them, something else will, even if it's only worms. And they don't have human thoughts or feelings, so trying to superimpose our experience and our values on them is as foolish as thinking you can live safely among the bears.

The animal rights activists have nothing to offer but vegetables and mushy thinking. They're welcome to both, until they act criminally. That should get them jail time. I'm sure they won't be offended by any foie gras in the stony lonesome.

Mike Doogan's opinion column appears each Tuesday, Friday and Sunday. Reach him at 907-257-4350 or

E-mail Exchange with Mike Doogan

First response from Doogan:

Thanks for the message.

A couple of points.

First, I think that Diane Fossey, who trained under one of the leading naturalists of her time and received a doctorate from Cambridge for her gorilla research, would be surprised to learn that she was not a trained naturalist.

Second, there was no poacher in the area when Treadwell was killed, nor has poaching been a problem in that area. Treadwell himself told somebody that he'd stayed to make sure one of the bears he had named was okay. The bear that killed him had not been wounded, at least not by a human. This has all been reported. Reading only what you want to read?

Third, living in the wilderness among grizzly bears is not what Alaskans do. Not what real Alaskans do, anyway. Real Alaskans live in towns and hold jobs and try to improve the material conditions of life for themselves and their children. It's only faux Alaskans, like Treadwell and, I guess, you who are so in love with the idea of some near-Eden existence in nature that they spend their time in trivial pursuits.

Finally, you write that Treadwell "was dedicated to the conservation and protection of bears." What does that mean? We have plenty of bears in Alaska, and there is nobody -- no person or organization - threatening them. So who was he protecting bears from?

Oh, by the way. What are you captain of?

-Mike Doogan

Paul Watson's 2nd Reply to Mike Doogan:

Mr. Doogan,

The International Chairman of my organization, the Sea Shepherd Conservation Society, is Farley Mowat, He wrote a biography of Diane Fossey called "Virunga." I referred to him and he confirmed what I told you. Diane was an occupational therapist who was inspired by a book written by George A. Schaller. She volunteered for a position offered by Louis Leakey and she was field trained by Jane Goodall. She had no academic credentials when she started her work. Diane completed her doctoral thesis in 1980, thirteen years after going to Africa to live with the gorillas in 1967. In other words, she had the same credentials as Timothy Treadwell for most of the period that she worked with gorillas and for the same period of time.

Timothy's thirteen years left him with a in depth knowledge of bears. He kept journals and made contributions to the literature on bears. He certainly contributed to the film and photographic library on bears.

Also on my Advisory Board is Dr. Birute Galdikas who was a friend of Diane's and who has dedicated her life to Orangutans. I called her to verify the facts above and I sent an E-mail to Dr. Louise Leakey, another member of my advisory board. Louise is the grand-daughter of Dr. Louis Leakey. The Leakey family was very supportive of Timothy's work and they sent him a letter of support.

There were indeed poachers in the area. Timothy had been threatened by them and he had photographs. I've seen them. Don't tell me there are no poachers in Alaska. We had a bear cub orphaned near us only three months ago and a few days later we saw the skinned body of it's mother floating in the sea.

Poaching is quite common in Alaska, Mr. Doogan. You would know this if you got out of Anchorage more often. I'm assuming you don't based on your comments about "faux Alaskans". You probably do get out to shoot things. Timothy's work was really not just about protecting bears from poachers in Alaska it was also about the possible restoration of the bear in the lower 48.

The bear's body has been taken for forensic investigation. This case has not yet been closed. I understand that there was a damaged canine tooth. You do not have the facts to state that the bear was not wounded. The investigation has not officially established the facts in this case. It may have been reported but it has not been established. Big difference.

Now let me get this straight. You're saying that only "faux Alaskans" live in the wilderness and real Alaskans live in Anchorage. I had to sit down for that one. You have got to be kidding. I did not disparage urban dwelling Alaskans but you retaliated by disparaging wilderness dwelling Alaskans. Are you saying Mr. Doogan that because our Lodge is 50 miles from the nearest road in Alaska that I am a "faux Alaskan". You're joking of course. But if you're not, this certainly clears up where you are coming from i.e. you haven't gotten the faintest idea of what you are talking about when it comes to bears and wilderness. No wonder you don't know anything about poaching.

You don't have many poachers in Anchorage I suspect. Have you stopped to consider Mr. Doogan that Timothy and Amie were killed in their camp. They were not killed because they were approaching a bear or photographing or filming a bear. The bear came into their camp while they were in their tent and this could have happened to anyone camping in the wilderness.

By the way, I see you avoided most of the points in my letter to you and retaliated where you felt you had some ammunition like your "certainty" about Diane Fossey's academic history.

As for trivial pursuits, I've got a real job. I don't make my living disparaging the dead to suck up to the anti-nature crowd like you do.

Oh and by the way, since you asked, I am the Captain of the Galapagos National Park Patrol vessel Sirenian for part of the year and the Captain of the Conservation research ship R/V Farley Mowat (650 tons) for most of the rest of the year. My nautical skills and qualifications are certainly sufficient to justify the title. If you would like a complete listing of the ships that I have skippered since 1978, I will provide it for you, just so you don't think that all I do is engage in trivial pursuits.

-Captain Paul Watson

2nd Response from Doogan:

Thanks for the message. So you're a THE Paul Watson. That explains it.

Reply from Paul Watson:

I see Mike,

I guess you may have confused me initially with say Paul Watson of the L.A. Times. Some would call him THE Paul Watson.

You say it explains it. What does it explain, Mr. Doogan?

You do have a knack for avoiding questions. I guess it's easier to make assumptions.

I only have one request to make of you. Have a little respect for the dead and stop slandering their names.

THE Paul Watson

3rd Response from Doogan:

Thanks for the message. A few points.

First, slander is spoken. You meant to write "libeling the dead." But you can't legally libel the dead. Aren't facts a bummer.

Second, I read the ode to Treadwell on the Sea Shepherd website. It was based on a couple of startlingly false premises -- that he knew more about grizzlies than anyone else and that he was responsible for saving them from poachers. People who live in glass houses ...

Third, I recognize that you, he and people like you think you are doing something important and noble. I just don't agree. I see what you are doing as self-indulgent and trivia and, essentially, unsustainable. Your romantic views of nature are a luxury that we can't afford over the long term.

Fourth, to address the points you raised in your first missive.-- I wrote: "Fossey was a trained naturalist. Treadwell wasn't." That statement is true, and remains true despite your attempts to demonstrate otherwise.

-- You said: "There is by the way no documented evidence of anyone dying in Glacier National Park because they read Tim's book and duplicated his activities. Was this a fabrication or just your spin on another incident involving bears and people?" I wrote "According to one of his critics, this impressed a couple in Glacier National Park so much that they imitated him by going off into the brush and were killed by a bear." In its Oct. 8 story, the Anchorage Daily News reported: "Chuck Bartlebaugh of "Be Bear Aware,'' a national bear awareness campaign, called Treadwell one of the leaders of a group of people engaged in "a trend to promote getting close to bears to show they were not dangerous.

"He kept insisting that he wanted to show that bears in thick brush aren't dangerous. The last two people killed (by bears) in Glacier National Park went off the trail into the brush. They said their goal was to find a grizzly bear so they could 'do a Timothy.' We have a trail of dead people and dead bears because of this trend that says, 'Let's show it's not dangerous.' ''

-- You wrote: "Were you aware Mr. Doogan that Tim and Amie were scheduled to have left Katmai but had to stay to keep an eye on a poacher in the area? are you aware Mr. Doogan that this case is still under investigation and all the facts are not yet in? There is a possibility that the offending bear may have been wounded. And if so, by who?" But, then, we've already dealt with that, haven't we.

-- You wrote: "I am an Alaskan also." So you've been living outside Ketchikan for a few years and you think that makes you an Alaskan? You'll never be an Alaskan. You have city-bred ideas about nature will always disqualify you from that.

Anyway, it's been fun. Try to stay out of jail.

-Mike Doogan

Final Reply to Mike Doogan from Paul Watson:

For your information Mr. Doogan, I have no criminal record so I should have no problem staying out of jail.

Again you do not know of what you speak - I have lived in Misty Fjords since 1998 but I spend most of my time at sea. During the last year this included three months in Antarctica and six months on the Pacific. I was raised in a small fishing village. I was not raised in a city so stow the urban dwelling crap. I have been traveling around Alaska since 1971, from Ketchikan to Nome from Adak to the Yukon border.

Thanks for the correction on the slander. Point taken I'll correct myself and request that you stop libeling the dead.

We stand by the statements on our web site and deny they are based on false premises

I have no doubt that you disagree with me. Your anti-nature anthropocentric rhetoric demonstrates exactly where you stand. However it still does not justify you disparaging the reputations of two people who cannot defend themselves from your remarks in your media.

Your utilitarian view of nature is the luxury that this planet cannot afford over the long term. I have no romantic views of nature. My actions are based on the understanding of ecological laws like diversity, interdependence and finite resources.

I believe that Timothy Treadwell was a trained naturalist. He kept records of his observations and the Leakey family thought highly of him, just as they did Diane Fossey and Jane Goodall. Physical anthropologist Marc Gaede knew Tim Treadwell and he states that he was indeed a trained naturalist.

Your accusation that Tim was responsible for the deaths of two people in Glacier national Park is based on hearsay. Tim Treadwell never advocated for people to approach closely to bears. In fact he advocated that people keep a distance from bears.

Finally you say that the people who live in cities are true Alaskans and we wilderness advocates are "faux Alaskans" yet you accuse me of being a city bred person. According to your previous comment this would make me a 'true Alaskan". But alas I am not city bred. I'm from a small maritime fishing village - lobsters actually. So what is it Mike - what is a true Alaskan? Did I ever say that you were not? You seem to be the judge and jury on this. I think your idea of a true Alaskan is one who shares your values and agrees with you.

You did not understand a thing about Timothy Treadwell so don't pretend to pigeon hole me.

You say it's been fun. I say that attacking the dead is not fun - it's sick and cowardly and I refer you again to the quote from Roosevelt that you did not seem to understand. You are a cold and timid soul my "true Alaskan" friend.

-Capt. Paul Watson

Final Word:

After this, I did not hear back from Mr. Doogan, the expert on Alaska, bears and supposedly Timothy Treadwell. Let the man know that you support Timothy's work and that is attack on Tim and Amie is cowardly and shallow

Mike Doogan can be reached at Tel: 907-257-4350 or Email:

Thank You,

Captain Paul Watson
Founder and President
Sea Shepherd Conservation Society
National Director - Sierra Club
Director - Farley Mowat Institute