Some Bet on My Death
In a stunning final letter, Timothy Treadwell speaks out on naysayers, fear, and what he believed was acceptance into the clan of the bear
Get access to everything we publish when you sign up for Outside+.
THIS PAST SUMMER—his 13th in Alaska—Timothy Treadwell wrote frequent letters to family and friends, including Roland Dixon, a Bellevue, Colorado, rancher and conservation activist who was one of Treadwell’s most steadfast financial supporters. In late July, Treadwell had arrived in the area he called the Grizzly Maze, the vast tangle of meadows and thickets stretching inland from Kaflia Bay. To his delight, the Maze’s bears were faring well, particularly one he called Aunt Melissa, and her two cubs, Lilly and Dixon, the latter named in Roland Dixon’s honor. As Treadwell wrote to Dixon on August 25, he believed he was experiencing a breakthrough: “I am in the most exciting and dangerous time of my…fieldwork. I am so deep within the brown bear culture. It is fascinating, beautiful, and at times treacherous.” His last letter to Dixon—which Dixon has provided exclusively to Outside, hoping to give Treadwell a voice in the controversy over his death—was flown out on September 14 by a bush plane carrying supplies. It would be one of his final communications to the outside world.
The Grizzly Maze, Alaska
Sunday, September 14, 2003
Hello! I am writing you a last letter for the journey. My last food delivery is scheduled for late today.
My transformation complete—a fully accepted wild animal—brother to these bears. I run free among them—with absolute love and respect for all the animals. I am kind and viciously tough.
People—especially the bear experts of Alaska—believe this cannot be done. Some even bet on my death. They are sure you must have some sort of weapon for defense—pepper spray at the least, an electric fence a must. And you cannot hope to make it in a flimsy tent under thick cover among one of Earth’s largest gatherings of giant brown grizzly bears.
People who knowingly enter bear habitat with pepper spray, guns, and electric fences are committing a crime to the animals. They begin with the accepted idea of bringing instruments of pain to the animals. If they are that fearful, then they have no place in the land of this perfect animal.
Could I look at Dixon, Lilly, and their mother, Melissa, and tell them that I love them, that I will care for them, with a can of mace in my pocket? Does the fox or vole get zapped by the wicked sting of an electric fence for being curious?
This wilderness—the Grizzly Maze—had big problems not too many years ago. People who came to kill the animals. I was threatened with death. One group promising to stuff me alive in a crab pot and submerge it in the icy sea.
They are gone now. The Maze returned to the animals.
You made this possible. I am a miserable fundraiser. Without you these animals would have been left without any care. Care that I can offer them without any displacement or disrespect. I even erase my footprints.
. . . You got me here for so many years. I will always remember and be thankful. . . . I will tell [the bears] of your kindness and generosity. Animals alive because of you. Myself included.