Grizzly Adams
Dan Haggerty was best known for his portrayal of Grizzly Adams in the hit US TV series NBC

Actor Dan Haggerty who portrayed frontier woodsman Grizzly Adams in the long-running TV series in the 1970s has died, aged 74. The actor's long-time friend and manager Terry Bomar told ABC News that Haggerty had been suffering from cancer.

He had been battling cancer of the spine since August and died at Providence St. Joseph Medical Centre in Burbank. Born on November 19, 1942, in Los Angeles, Haggerty was the son of an entertainment industry veteran. He spurned his parents preferred choice of a career as a priest and sought work as a stuntman and an animal handler in Hollywood.

He guest starred in numerous 70s TV shows such as "CHiPs," "Charlie's Angels" and "The Love Boat" before landing the title role in The Life and Times of Grizzly Adams. The much-loved series which was loosely based on the life of James Capen Adams who trained bears in California in the mid-19th Century, tells the story of a mountain man who is forced to live in the wilderness after being wrongly accused of murder. While on the run, he adopts an orphaned grizzly bear and names him Ben.

The film became the seventh high-grossing film of 1974 and the NBC network aired a TV series of the same name, which ran from 1977 to 1978, BBC News reports.

While he found fame, he did have some run-ins with law. In 1985, a jury found him guilty of one count of selling cocaine to undercover officers who were part of an "entertainment industry task force" run by the LAPD. Jurors threw out a second count, apparently because Haggerty had grown fond of the two officers and the case was tantamount to entrapment.

A few months later, Haggerty suffered serious injuries in a motorcycle accident on Benedict Canyon Road. While still recovering, he was sentenced by a federal court for failure to pay taxes. Revealing an entrepreneurial streak he marketed Cajun barbecue sauce and turned restaurateur. A second motorbike accident in 1991sparked false reports of his death. He survived the crash, escaping with multiple broken bones. The incident prompted him to write a letter to Pope John Paul II who replied.

"He wasn't a choirboy by any stretch of the imagination," said Bomar. "He was a pirate! He would light up any room he walked into -- he had an infectious laughter."

While he continued to work as an actor he was best known for his portrayal of Grizzly Adams. Haggerty was divorced once then remarried. He was preceded in death by his wife Samantha. He is survived by daughters Megan and Tracy Haggerty, sons Dylan, Cody and Don and one grandson.