Dan Haggerty, Who Played Grizzly Adams

Dan Haggerty, known for his role as the gentle mountain man with a magnificent beard and his trusty bear, Ben, in the beloved 1974 movie “The Life and Times of Grizzly Adams” and the subsequent television series, passed away on Friday in Burbank, Calif. He was 73.

Haggerty’s friend and manager, Terry Bomar, revealed that the cause of death was cancer of the spine.


Before his acting career took off, Haggerty worked as a stuntman and animal handler in Hollywood. It was during this time that a producer approached him to act in some opening scenes that were being re-shot for a film about a woodsman and his bear. Haggerty agreed, but on one condition – he wanted to star in the entire movie.

The film, based on the novel “The Life and Times of Grizzly Adams” by Charles Sellier Jr., followed the story of a California man wrongly accused of murder who seeks refuge in the wilderness. There, he forms a deep bond with the animals and befriends an orphaned bear. The low-budget movie, made for $165,000, went on to earn nearly $30 million at the box office. The success paved the way for a television adaptation, and in February 1977, Haggerty reprised his role as the eco-friendly guardian of the woods and friend to all animals.

The TV series captured the hearts of viewers with its genial and sentimental storytelling, earning Haggerty a People’s Choice Award in 1978 for the most popular actor in a new series. The popularity of “Grizzly Adams” led to two follow-up films: “Legend of the Wild” (1978) and “The Capture of Grizzly Adams” (1982). In the latter, Adams is taken back to town by bounty hunters and finally clears his name.


Daniel Francis Haggerty was born on November 19, 1942, in Los Angeles. After his parents separated when he was young, he had a troubled childhood and even ran away from military school multiple times. Eventually, he went to live with his father, an actor, in Burbank, Calif.

Haggerty’s career began with small roles in films like “Muscle Beach Party” (1964) and “Easy Rider” (1969). He also took on bit parts in biker and wildlife films. Alongside his acting career, Haggerty lived on a small ranch in Malibu Canyon, where he tamed and cared for wild animals. This led to roles as an animal trainer and stuntman in TV shows like “Tarzan” and “Daktari.”

As time went on, Haggerty made several outdoor-themed films, such as “Where the North Wind Blows” (1974) and “The Adventures of Frontier Fremont” (1976). He even appeared as a dog trainer in the David Carradine film “Americana” (1983). Unfortunately, as his mainstream acting opportunities diminished, he took on roles in horror films such as “Terror Night” (1987), “Elves” (1989), and “Axe Giant: The Wrath of Paul Bunyan” (2013).

Despite his success, Haggerty faced personal challenges. In 1985, he was sentenced to 90 days in jail for selling cocaine to undercover police officers. In 1977, a careless restaurant patron accidentally set his famous beard on fire, resulting in severe burns on his arms. Haggerty found solace in nature during his recovery and left the hospital after just 10 days, a testament to the healing power of the great outdoors and his inner strength.

Daniel Haggerty will always be remembered for his iconic role as Grizzly Adams and his dedication to wildlife and environmental causes. His warmth and love for nature resonated with audiences, earning him a special place in our hearts. Farewell, Grizzly Adams.

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