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Saturday, January 03, 2004

And a Treadwell shrine page compliments of Leonardo DiCapria

Bear eaten Treadwell STILL in the news

Bear Advocate an Enigma in Death

By JEREMIAH MARQUEZ Associated Press Writer

LOS ANGELES (AP) -- Timothy Treadwell's death came just the way he had predicted. Treadwell and his girlfriend were mauled by a 1,000-pound grizzly bear last October in a remote section of Alaskan wilderness that Treadwell knew well after years of living among its bear population.

That Treadwell was killed doing what he loved did not surprise many of those who knew him. He had acknowledged his forays into the backcountry were tempting fate.

He had started an environmental group and received donations from celebrities such as actor Leonardo DiCaprio, in part by saying the bears he loved were in jeopardy. He spun colorful stories about his adventures for the Discovery Channel, David Letterman's late-night audience and the Walt Disney Co.

What few knew about Treadwell was that much of his life was an invention.

Interviews with associates and reviews of public records reveal Treadwell as a complex character - part wildlife enthusiast, part showman, part educator, part impostor.

The organization he said was dedicated to saving bears did find an outlet educating school children. But some experts said the bears he professed to be saving didn't need his protection.

His tales of being Australian or an English orphan, later rescuing himself from a life of drugs and alcohol through his fascination with bears, only made his story more compelling.

Only after his death did some friends learn that he was born under a different name as the middle-class son of a Long Island phone company foreman.

Charismatic in life, Treadwell had become an enigma in death.


Grizzlies, known as brown bears along the Alaskan coast, are more likely to attack people than the smaller black bear. More than 400 grizzly attacks on humans have been documented in Alaska since 1900, a fraction of them fatal, according to the U.S. Geological Survey's Alaska Science Center.

Treadwell refused to see the bears as "savage beasts." He spent nearly a dozen summers living among grizzlies, primarily in the Katmai National Park and Preserve on the Alaska Peninsula, videotaping many of his encounters.

Despite the concerns of wildlife authorities, Treadwell, 46, won national acclaim for his daring and devotion. He published a book, "Among Grizzlies: Living With Wild Bears in Alaska," in 1997, and more recently talked with filmmakers working on Disney's animated feature "Brother Bear" about bears.

Treadwell made regular visits to schools after returning to Southern California from his annual trips to Alaska.

"His passion for the bears and wildlife was just infectious, and the students loved his stories," said Phil Cott, principal of Webster Elementary School in Malibu, where Treadwell lived in a rented condo.

Not everyone embraced Treadwell's views.

Critics said Treadwell's forays into bear country could encourage copycats and worried the mauling death of Treadwell and his girlfriend, 37-year-old Amie Huguenard, would turn public opinion against them.

"Bears are bears, and the sooner we treat them as bears instead of humans in a bear suit it will be less dangerous," said Tom Smith, a biologist at the Alaska Science Center.

Stephen Stringham, a bear biologist and professor with the University of Alaska system, defended Treadwell's work. Treadwell, he said, kept meticulous diaries of bear genealogy, mating patterns and maternal behavior that will be valuable to researchers.

"The details he has, no one's got anything like it. It's extremely valuable to science," said Stringham, who had planned to collaborate on several papers with Treadwell.


During a middle-class upbringing on Long Island, Treadwell - born Timothy William Dexter - nurtured a passion for animals and the outdoors.

In high school, he was a swim team member and later earned a scholarship to Bradley University in Peoria, Ill.

In what his father, Valentine Dexter, called the start of a downward spiral, Tim injured his back while diving, lost his scholarship and dropped out in 1977.

Back home in Ronkonkoma, his troubles worsened: He crashed the family station wagon and was arrested on charges related to drunken driving.

"That led up to his leaving," said his father.

He moved to Long Beach in 1978, and soon began a personal transformation.

He legally changed his last name to Treadwell in 1987 after using it informally for years, Los Angeles County records show.

He also told friends of being Australian or of growing up a British orphan. People magazine in 1994 quoted him as claiming to be a native of Australia who moved to California as a teenager.

Supporters defended Treadwell's shifting persona, noting that in his book he said he was raised in New York.

Sunset Beach friends described Treadwell as a fun-loving eccentric, but he recalled his early years in Southern California as some of his darkest.

In his book, Treadwell wrote of an ongoing battle with alcoholism and drugs and carrying around a gun. He appears to have been in trouble with the law at least twice.

In 1984, a Timmy Treadwell was accused of illegally discharging a firearm, according to court records in Beverly Hills. Three years earlier, a Timothy Winthorpe Treadwell of Sunset Beach was booked on suspicion of assault, Orange County records show. Treadwell was living in Sunset Beach then and had used the middle name Winthorpe, those who knew him said.

Re-evaluating his life after a near-death experience from a drug overdose, he wrote, Treadwell decided to seek out bears in Alaska.


Treadwell's environmental crusade began slowly but quickly gained attention, propelled by his outsized personality.

He and friend Jewel Palovak started the bear-advocacy group Grizzly People in the mid-1990s.

To raise money, the group increasingly turned to the most obvious source of charitable giving in Southern California - celebrities. The list of Hollywood stars who either attended his fund-raisers or gave him money included DiCaprio, Bundchen and actor Pierce Brosnan.

Darlene Malott, who until recently was a representative for DiCaprio's foundation, said the actor met with Treadwell about three years ago after seeing him on Letterman's show. The foundation gave Grizzly People nearly $25,000, said Malott and DiCaprio's publicist, Ken Sunshine.

Bundchen met Treadwell at one of his events a year ago and contributed money, although she wasn't sure how much, said her manager, Anne Nelson.

Brosnan and his wife, Keely, also attended Treadwell's fund-raising events.

"We are deeply saddened by the loss of our friend and admired environmental warrior," Brosnan and his wife said in a statement to the AP.

Robert Towne, the screenwriter whose credits include "Chinatown" and "Mission: Impossible," said he and his wife wrote Treadwell a check he recalled was in the thousands of dollars.

"However eccentric he was ... I think his work should be valued and honored," Towne said.

Treadwell told Towne and other contributors he was terrified the bears would be killed by poachers without his presence.

A Grizzly People statement distributed to supporters last year said the bears "are attractive targets and without Treadwell's care would be easy to poach."

Some Alaskan wildlife experts discounted that, saying sporadic poaching isn't jeopardizing Alaska's grizzly population of 35,000. The animals aren't listed as an endangered species in Alaska.

Treadwell's supporters insist he videotaped poacher campsites and chased away hunters, adding he never claimed to protect all bears, just those in his area of Katmai.

"I don't think it's mischaracterizing," Palovak said.

Treadwell's approach helped Grizzly People average about $30,000 in annual contributions over the past several years, said Tisha Bedrosian of Social and Environmental Entrepreneurs, a nonprofit umbrella organization that funnels tax-deductible donations to Grizzly People.

Despite Grizzly People's written claim that it was a nonprofit, the organization is not registered with the Internal Revenue Service as a nonprofit, said Victor Omelczenko, an IRS spokesman. The group was, however, eligible to receive donations through its nonprofit sponsor.

Warren Queeney, an actor in Los Angeles and a friend of Treadwell's for 10 years, said Treadwell would have reveled in the attention his life and work have generated since his death.

Queeney only learned his friend was from Long Island when he met Treadwell's father at a memorial service, but he said he felt more amused than duped.

"He was a con artist, but boy, he pulled it off," Queeney said. "The man was truly a riddle wrapped in a sleeping bag. I don't know if any of us will ever know who he really was."

Copyright 2004 Associated Press. All rights reserved.

Thursday, January 01, 2004

What do you call an Israeli Yu'pik? (send answers to your blogger)

Israel's first Eskimo soldier
By Raffi Berg
BBC News Online
The Israeli army has inducted into its ranks one of the most unusual recruits in its history - an Eskimo girl from Alaska.

Eighteen-year-old Eva Ben Sira is training to become a squad commander in the Negev desert - a far cry from the frozen wastes of her homeland.

Eva was born to a Yupik Eskimo mother and a Cherokee American father before being adopted by an Israeli couple.

Her twin brother, Jimmy, will become the army's second serving Eskimo, when he joins the force next year.

Culture clash

The twins' remarkable journey to Israel began when their mother, Minnie, found herself unable to support Eva and Jimmy after their father walked out. Their story came to public attention in a recent article by the Israeli daily Haaretz.

Alaskan social services stepped in and, at the age of two, the twins were sent to live with their grandmother, who struggled to raise the children herself.

Their plight came to light when an Orthodox Jewish couple, Meir and Dafna Ben Sira, came to visit Minnie's neighbour - Dafna's mother - a Swiss Catholic woman, who had emigrated to Alaska from Israel in 1989.

The Ben Siras offered to adopt Eva and Jimmy, but had to overcome a welter of religious and cultural obstacles to get the adoption approved by both tribal elders and an Alaskan Orthodox rabbi.

"We got to know the children and they needed a home," Dafna told BBC News Online.

"We wanted to have a family and the children had no place to go," she said.

They remained in Alaska for five years until the adoption process was completed.

'People are curious'

Eva and Jimmy were brought to Israel (they learned to speak Hebrew in three months), converted to Judaism and integrated into Israeli society among the Orthodox community of Nir Etzion, a village near Haifa.

The twins attended religious schools and had bar- and batmitzvahs - Jewish coming of age ceremonies.

"Their culture wasn't a problem, but they did ask a lot of questions when they were growing up," Dafna said.

After nearly a decade in Israel, Eva has forgotten the smattering of Yupik she spoke as a child, but with her long black hair and almond-shaped eyes, she has retained her ethnic looks.

"People are very curious," said Dafna.

"When I take the children shopping and people ask which parent the children look like, I tell them they take after their father because he's not there.

"When my husband takes them shopping and people ask, he tells them they look like me because I'm not there."

Dafna said Eva has no wish to delve too deeply into her past and is very happy living in Israel.

Jimmy, however, is more intrigued and wants to go back to Alaska, if for only a visit.

Note: Their pictures are on the BBC website- follow the link above.

Wednesday, December 31, 2003

NBC shows Iraqi vid of Dying GI

Piestewa Family: Video of Injured Soldiers Sparking Anxiety, Hurt
By Ananda Shorey Associated Press Writer
Published: Dec 31, 2003

PHOENIX (AP) - The family of a soldier killed in Iraq had harsh words Wednesday for the network that aired footage of her, bloody and bruised, in an Iraqi hospital bed shortly before she died.

The footage, aired Tuesday on "NBC Nightly News," shows Lori Piestewa and Jessica Lynch - Army privates and best friends - at a hospital where they were taken after a March 23 ambush. Lynch was rescued April 1.

Airing the tape - which NBC said was filmed but never broadcast by Iraqi television - created a sense of fear, anxiety and hurt, Piestewa's family said in a statement.

"This terrorism was not from any foreign group wishing to harm the United States, but from our own people wanting to make a quick buck off the misfortune of two beautiful young women," the family said.

Wayland Piestewa, brother of the fallen soldier, released the statement but declined to answer questions.

NBC spokeswoman Barbara Levin said the network contacted the Pentagon so the families of Piestewa and Lynch would know about the footage.

"Undeniably there's news value in it," Levin said, because it bolsters Lynch's statements that she did not remember what happened after her unit was attacked, and because it shows Piestewa was alive for a time after the ambush.

"It gave some clarity to the situation," Levin said.

On the tape, Piestewa's face is swollen, bloody and bruised and her head loosely bandaged. Her lip is shown curling back in an apparent grimace.

Lynch, 20, is also shown bandaged, her lip cut. Neither appears awake or alert.

The footage was somewhat comforting for fellow former POW Spc. Shoshana Johnson, who verified Lynch's and Piestewa's identities for NBC.

"It was a little shocking to see Lori, but it also gave me a little peace to know that they tried, they did their best for her," Johnson, 30, told the network. "I mean, it was obvious they tried to bandage her up and give her medical care."

Iraqi doctors have previously said the women were brought to a private clinic after the ambush, and that Piestewa, a 23-year-old mother of two from Tuba City, Ariz., died half an hour later of severe head injuries.

Although they disagreed with NBC's decision to air the footage, Piestewa's family said some people definitely should see it.

"Let us make sure that both President Bush, his father and each of his aides and advisers get a copy of Lori dying in agony so that they realize, from the comfort of their homes, that war should be the last option," the family said in the statement.

AP-ES-12-31-03 2330EST

Copyright 2003 Associated Press

Tuesday, December 30, 2003

Russian bears are as hungry as Alaskan bears!


PETROPAVLOVSK-KAMCHATSKY, December 29. /RIA NOVOSTI CORRESPONDENT OKSANA GUSEVA/ -- RIA Novosti was told in the Kamchtka search-rescue detachment that a bear tore a man to pieces in the Kronotsky wildlife refuge.

One of the oldest workers of the Kronotsky wildlife refuge and well-known Kamchatka photographer and hunting specialist Vitaly Nikolayenko fell victim to a big bear 1.5 kilometres from the station on the territory of the wildlife refuge.

Nikolayenko was taking a photograph of the beast and failed to use the weapon he was carrying when the bear attacked him.

The rescue workers brought the body to Petropavlovsk-Kamchatsky.

A total of about 600 Kamchatka bears live on the territory of the Kronotsky wildlife refuge but cases of attacks on man by beasts of prey are extremely rare.