Biggest nincompoop: Timothy Treadwell, Chris McCandless, or Vitaly Nikolayenko?

I watched a show on Discovery or Animal Planet recently that featured a researcher whose job was tracking a population of bears. A lot of the stuff he was doing seemed similar to what Jane Goodall did with chimps, including the laying around and chilling out with them, and catching up with the new adults as they made their way out into the world and adapted alone. I thought the guy seemed incredibly ballsy, but he seemed like he knew what he was doing and that it was at least possible to behave around the bears in a way that mitigated your risks.

I don’t if the two bear guys here were behaving “correctly,” but I don’t believe that type of close interaction with wild animals is necessarily totally ludicrous.

Yeah, that guy on Animal Planet is Treadwell. The show “Grizzly Man Diaries” is made from footage he shot when he wasn’t being eaten by bears. Warner Herzog took that footage and turned it into a feature film, called “Grizzly Man”, which the Discovery Channel/Animal Planet periodically show in a three hour miniseries format. Now the footage from the film and a bunch of unreleased stuff is being edited into a series called “The Grizzly Man Diaries”. It’s almost a documentary in how not to be a zoologist. It’s really irresponsible of Animal Planet to show this.

The reason bears are dangerous is because they’re moody & unpredictable. They’re not predators so much as scavengers. They won’t expend a lot of energy chasing down food but if food insists on walking up and sitting down next to them, well, bears will be bears. The bears in this footage accept Treadwell as non-threatening, so they tolerate his presence. But they’re not his pets and for the love of God, other people shouldn’t watch these films and and emulate his behavior. It’s not surprising that he was killed by a bear; it’s only surprising that it didn’t happen sooner.

If Treadwell was interested in keeping the bears safe, he would have done everything in his power to keep them from getting used to being around humans. Humans are the only danger bears face. Keeping the bears wary of the humans is the number one thing he could have done to keep the bears safe. Their shyness is their protection. Treadwell stripped them of that.

Here’s an account of Treadwell’s death by Kevin Sanders, an officially licensed naturalist and educator at Yellowstone:

It includes a transcript of the tape of Treadwell & Huguenard being killed.

That would be pretty funny, but it wasn’t. It was some older guy with a beard.

i think getting mauled by a bear would be worse then dying of poisoning. ‘Into The Wilderness’ was a good movie but the ending was sad.

Treadwell’s girlfriend went of her own volition, didn’t she? Although he probably gave her the idea that it was safe because he was such an expert and nothing could possibly happen; still, I have to go with McCandless. He was totally unprepared. What did he think was going to happen?

Ah, ok. Must be next year’s candidate for Nincompoop, I guess.

I’ve seen Grizzly Man, so I don’t call Treadwell a naturalist. :stuck_out_tongue: I also don’t see how he qualifies as “eco-warrior”–as one Netflix reviewer points out, “though he claimed to be protecting his bears, the one scene in which intruders approach finds him hiding in the bushes.” I didn’t entirely like Werner Herzog’s approach, but I sure was entertained. Treadwell’s own un-self-aware video documentation wins him major nincompoop points.

Nikolayenko survived much longer than Treadwell around bears. Arguably, 33 years among the bears represents some level of competence, and he had “documented several lucky escapes,” so he seems to have had more of a clue about the real nature of bears. Also unlike Treadwell, he apparently left a legacy of some scientifically useful observations. And Nikolayenko didn’t get anyone else killed.

McCandless is tougher to figure. For the most part, he just seems so passive about his fate. It’s hard for me to think of him as having been killed by incompetence, as opposed to having (subconsciously?) committed suicide. While sad, I don’t see that as nincompoopery, exactly.

I say Treadwell by an Alaska mile.

You’ve got it wrong – Treadwell wasn’t a nincompoop. Treadwell was bear poop.

Dunno enough about the Russian to vote on him. McCandless was ill-informed and overconfident. But Treadwell had been repeatedly warned and cited by the Park Service but kept doing incredibly dangerous things, and got not only his girlfriend but also two of his beloved bears killed. He wins.

With Into the Wild Jon Krakauer, who also wrote Into Thin Air, does an admirable job researching and interviewing a number of people that knew Chris and paints a more accurate picture of an enigmatic guy. He was high-minded and idealistic but also, as reported by more than a few, not really all there. Sean Penn, in his movie adaption with the same name, chooses to cast him as a more heroic, admirable and simply misunderstood character. If you want a true sense of McCandless’s folly, read the book. Penn made a compelling movie but it’s rife with artistic license.

That said, Treadwell is in a league of his own when it comes to putting a face on stupid. Watching Grizzly Man made me ill with his abuse of respect for the dignity of, and protections that should be afforded, wildlife. In the end another human died, horribly I might add, and two bears had to be put down. What a dipshit.

The Russian I’ve no knowledge of.

I could barely make it through Grizzly Man because Treadwell was so irritating. I did look forward to the part where he got eaten by the bear, though.

This. There are a few people in the documentary who bring up this point. Don’t teach bears that humans are harmless. Treadwell thought bears were “people in bear suits.” He is seen throughout the doc talking about the bears as if he werely closely involved in their lives and they acknowledged him as their friend. I remember something about praying for rain so that the bears can catch fish or something. Dude, they’re bears. They’ll survive, or not, without any help from you.

I said Vitaly and Treadwell were tied because it seems that hanging out around bears is going to get them used to humans…and if they get used to us, that’s going to put them in a lot of danger. Treadwell seemed a lot more clueless about it.

Though Treadwell also seemed to like hanging out with other animals. I saw a video of him petting and romping with foxes. I guess foxes aren’t in the same danger as bears, but still…it’s wildlife. They’re not toys.

But the fox stole his hat! Silly scamp!

Okay, I’ll admit it;the Russian is a red herring. He just got unlucky, as opposed to Treadwell, whose stupidity finally got on Thor’s last nerve.

And the scary thing is he seemed to really think like that. Based on what I saw of the Herzog movie, anyway. Blech.

Skald, I’m starting to feel a little bad putting the Russian in with Treadwell. I hadn’t heard of him before the wiki but he sounded a little Treadwell esque. If the interaction he had with the bears was normal or standard, then maybe I was wrong to consider him stupid. Treadwell, though. Yikes. If you really want to cuddle with animals, get a dog. Join a furrie convention. Tell your girlfriend not to shave. I cringed every time I saw him approach an animal in the Herzog movie. It was so incredibly wrong.

Everyone knows that Rhymers can’t be trusted.

The only mistake McCandless made was that he ate seeds he thought were not poisonous but in fact where.

Treadwell on the other hand stayed late during the bear feeding season living with bears that are preparing for hibernation and presented himself to this older hungrier bear on numerous occasions who had a hard time fishing because of its health and age. Eventually something clicked in this bear, fuck it I’ll eat him. He refused to have any bear protection not even bear spray which might of saved his and his girlfriends life.

It seems really irresponsible of Animal Planet to show this footage without having a big red flashing crawl across the bottom: THIS IDIOT WAS LATER EATEN BY HIS BEAR BUDDIES! KIDS! DO NOT TRY THIS!

I read that the toxicology reports indicate that there was no poison in his system, he just starved to death. Is this wrong? I mean, at least if he was poisoned, that’s not as stupid as starving to death voluntarily, I suppose.