Grizzly 399 cub relocated

The famous grizzly sow known as 399 and her two cubs lumber around Pilgrim Creek Road on the north end of Grand Teton National Park in April. One of the subadult bears was recently relocated from private land just south of Grand Teton to the northeast side of the ecosystem. 

A young female grizzly bear that likely shares the bloodlines of a celebrated Grand Teton National Park sow is now roaming clear across the ecosystem near Beartooth Pass.

Pending the results of in-the-works genetic testing, it’s impossible to say with certainly whether the subadult 2 1/2-year-old animal that was relocated as a precaution Monday is one of the two cubs grizzly 399 cast away earlier this summer.

But based on the animal’s age and its whereabouts when it was trapped and collared for research earlier this year, Wyoming Game and Fish Department carnivore chief Dan Thompson said that there’s a “high likelihood” the young grizzly is in fact the offspring of a bear that’s so famous she has her own social media channels and a book in her name.

It’s a tough call, Thompson said, anytime his agency is weighing whether to move a grizzly bear because of conflict or habituated behavior. Animals with blood ties to bear 399 make the decision even harder, though he tries to divorce an animal’s lineage from the calculus.

“At the end of the day, we have to do what’s right for people and bears,” Thompson told the Jackson Hole Daily on Friday. “It’s not going to change our management decision.”

Before being live-trapped and driven to the Shoshone National Forest’s Fox Creek drainage, the subadult female had frequented private land between Teton Park’s south boundary and the Gros Ventre River for “at least a few weeks,” Thompson said. The animal had no history of conflict but was habituated, had shown signs of having received a human “food reward” and, recently, was sticking tight to private land.

“It was actively seeking food around residences at night,” Thompson said. “We had an opportunity to catch it and get it out of that type of scenario, and that’s why we did what we did.”

Relocating bears to attempt to break a cycle of undesirable behavior is routine business in Wyoming and the broader Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem, which is home to 750 or so grizzly bears. Sometimes it’s because an animal is killing livestock, while other times the cause is bold behavior, like raiding trash cans.

When grizzlies are in a precarious place, like an active grazing allotment or a neighborhood, they’re occasionally moved purely as a precaution. This year 15 grizzlies have been moved in Wyoming, Thompson said, slightly less than the average of around 20.

The purpose of moving a bear a long ways away is to minimize the chances that the animal finds its way back and resumes the unwanted behavior. In this case, the subadult griz was moved at least 100 straight-line miles, with the vast and snow-covered Absaroka Range in between.

“It’s as far away as we can get within the system, really,” Thompson said.

Grizzly 399, now 23 years old, gained fame for having raised at least four litters of cubs well within view of the roads in Teton Park. Her cubs, which have also gained a following, have been moved before by the state agency when they departed the park, and at times that has ignited great controversy.

In 2014 a 399-reared subadult known as grizzly 760 was trapped for loitering on private lands near Teton Village and moved to near Clark. Shortly thereafter, the male bear was euthanized after eating a deer that a hunter had hung from a tree.

Wilson resident Cindy Campbell was the ringleader of an activist group that condemned that decision, and, reached Friday, she again was disappointed.

“She is still just exploring her own territory,” Campbell said of the young bear. “When are we going to make our ranches and homes bear-proof? She wouldn’t have lingered down there if there hadn’t been something to keep her there.”

Thompson said that residents of the Snake River east bank subdivisions south of the park have been generally doing a “great job” using bear-proof garbage cans and cleaning up attractants like bird seed this fall. When asked, he did not specify the food reward the grizzly obtained.

“It’s a tough deal,” he said. “You can’t always secure every attractant.”

Contact Mike Koshmrl at 732-7067 or env@jhnewsandguide.com.

Mike has reported on the Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem's wildlife, wildlands and the agencies that manage them for 7 years. A native Minnesotan, he arrived in the West to study environmental journalism at the University of Colorado.

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(7) comments

Daniel McGuire

I moved up here in March of last year. Coming south out of YNP in late April, there were cars on both sides of the road, and people had their wide-angle lenses and cameras, some on tripods. Never being up here in the Tetons, I had no idea what was happening but guessed it was big. All of a sudden, there were 399 and her two cubs by the road. Then, of course, I started hearing about 399 and reading articles about the sow — really fantastic sight for a transplant.


Ken Chison

Unfortunately, this is probably a dead bear. The constant harassment from photographers and gawkers, all it's life, has given this bear a false narrative. This area it was moved to has an extremely high density of grizzlies in it already. It will seek out human interaction, at some point soon, which will be it's demise. Not only does it not know how to survive in a wild environment, it will forever be awaiting that "reward" for the perfect photo. All the harassers of this bear, and it's mother, will ultimately be responsible for what has and will happen.


Jay Westemeier

And you could care less.


Leslie Patten

Bears have home ranges they know well for food sources. Is moving a bear in hyperphagia to an unknown area best management? I'd like to see a study on this.


carol deech

How come we are never told what the exact issue was? Was this bear relocate because of bad human behavior or bad bear behavior? The State of Wyoming bear management is so poor. I wish they would find new people and remove the ineffective staff. This is not a good time of year to move a 2 1/2 year old cub. She will most likely get into even more trouble and if you are a good bear manager you would know this. Yes Dan you just put her at an even greater risk of being put down. And of course you will say its the bears fault. Bad Management!


Michael Grasseschi

Unfortunately... It's the best thing they can do to make sure ( if thats even possible) she actually makes it to adulthood.... Tough decision but the right one...







Meanwhile, 399 was seen this spring with a male bear... Having fun... We just ma just see her one more time with kids next spring, at age 24...



A miracle in the bear world already, reproducing later than 95% of Grizzles already, if she has them next year and lives until she lets them go... She will be 27... In 2021...



The rarely live past 25 in the wild, and rstelyvreprodice pastvafev18. She's already had defied that 2x, with a single cub, Snowy, in 2016, atvage 20... but he didn't survive the summer, sadly..



Then at age 21 in 2017, she had the two cubs she released this spring...



Amazing...


Daryl Hunter

Dan Thompson will call this a strike against the bear although the bear didn't swing (do anything wrong). One more strike she will be dead. Sad; the two strike rule is a good one, but not if is abused like it was with grizzly #760.


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