Bear Maulings Aren’t That Funny

Timothy Treadwell loved grizzly bears.


This New York born romantic spent his summers camped along Alaskan salmon streams, filming himself at the wildest and free-rangiest petting zoo on Earth. Most of his videos show him trembling with excitement as he explains why a furry, 900 pound assassin is nuzzling at his pocket. “I understand the bears,” he’d giggle moronically, “And they understand me.”


Biologists and Park Rangers, people who actually understand a thing or two about bears, warned Treadwell that fondling these heavily clawed omnivores was dangerous. “They’ll eat you Timothy” the biologists told him. “They’ll eat you Timothy” hinted the annoyed Rangers. Then, in October of 2003, the thinkable happened. A bear ate Timothy Treadwell.


Some quick-witted outdoorsmen will point out that there’s a lesson here: you can’t trust a grizzly bear. But that isn’t really useful, is it? I mean, we all already knew that. I wouldn’t lend a bear $2 ‘till payday, let alone have him over for a weekend bbq. There’s a better lesson here, a life and business lesson, which is: We should learn from the experience of others.


Think back to our primitive past. When the first cave man picked up a pit viper and died moments later in what appeared to be a lot of pain, the entire neighborhood understood the world just that little bit better. “Don’t pick up the pit vipers,” they’d laugh, “or you’ll end up like Bill over there.” Cavemen had an odd sense of humor. And if they had pencils, one of them would have written a book about it. There is no mistake you can make that hasn’t already been made – and written about.


We humans have evolved as the dominant species because we can learn from each other (and we have thumbs.) Unlike Timothy Treadwell, who had the thumbs but not the common sense, most of us don’t have to be mauled to know that a bear is not a toy.


Obvious, I know, but why then did Timothy become breakfast?  Why do we all keep making the same mistakes?


In Timothy’s case it’s because his ignorance was shrouded by his success. The first time he took a kissy-face picture with a bear and survived, he confused blind luck with knowledge. For the rest of us, we forget that there isn’t anything new under the sun. We don’t have to repeat the mistakes of others.


Young people are especially prone to making avoidable mistakes. It’s worth the time it takes to do some research, whether you’re thinking of getting a tattoo or starting an employee training program. Don’t look at just the benefits, learn the detriments too and make a decision based on facts and experience, even if it’s someone else’s experience.


Bookstores are overflowing with 2,000 years of wisdom. Whatever you can think of to do, someone else has already tried it. Read their story and save yourself some time, grief, and possibly skin.