The celebrated sow grizzly bear known as 399 has emerged from her den and is romping around with her two yearling cubs in northern Grand Teton National Park.
It’s the 22nd year of 399’s life, and the 11th-straight year she’s delighted wildlife watchers by frequenting roadside areas. Although rumor has it that grizzly 399 was first spotted downstream of her Pilgrim Creek den site three weeks ago, Thursday was the first time in 2018 that she was putting on a show for the masses.
“Yesterday was a very busy day up near the [Jackson Lake] Dam,” Teton park spokeswoman Denise Germann said. “It’s a pretty awesome opportunity to see a bear in the wild.”
As far as viewable wild things go, grizzly 399 is in good company at the moment.
“Right now the wildlife viewing opportunities are pretty grand,” Germann said. “There’s elk migrating. We’re starting to see bison and some calves in the central to north areas in the park and we’re getting reports of bears across the park.”
Germann urged park visitors to abide by the wildlife viewing guidelines: Stay 100 yards away from wolves and bears and 25 yards away from other critters.
Jackson Hole wildlife photographer Tom Mangelsen was among those who kept an eye on bear 399 throughout Thursday. There was plenty of company.
“I never saw so many people as yesterday, at least this early in the year, at a bear jam,” Mangelsen said.
It was a nice change of pace from the grizzly viewing scene so far.
“It’s been very, very quiet,” Mangelsen said, “The quietest year for bears that I’ve witnessed. It’s just been really slim pickings. It was just great to see her.”
Griz 399 looked healthy, he said, and was digging for pocket gopher caches and grazing fresh green vegetation as she led her cubs from Teton park’s potholes region north toward Jackson Lake. The matriarch grizzly, who has produced 13 cubs so far, is nearing her twilight years as far as bears go, but looks no worse for it.
“Her color is the same and her demeanor is the same,” Mangelsen said. “She’s had more than nine lives, the way that she’s been able to navigate the people and the hunters and the gut piles and everything. It just goes to show her ability to live around people.”
Grizzly 610, 399’s 12-year-old offspring, has yet to be seen out of the den this spring. She’s expected out again in her usual haunts anytime, and potentially with a new litter of cubs.
Mangelsen and the grizzlies he captures on film are the subject of a “60 Minutes” feature airing this weekend. The Anderson Cooper-hosted segment, “Into the Wild with Thomas D. Mangelsen,” airs Sunday night on CBS.