Update, 9:44 a.m., Monday: Grizzly 863 has been spotted in the area where her cub was last seen, Wyoming Game and Fish Department spokeswoman Rene Schell said Monday.
Wildlife managers are hoping the mother grizzly will reunite with her cub. The two separated after the mother bear was allegedly hit by a car, though that report has not been confirmed by authorities.
"We have seen her," Schell said. "It's exciting that she's moving normally, and she's back in the area... where we've had reports the cub has been seen."
Original article: Wildlife managers are monitoring the whereabouts of grizzly 863 after a vehicle may have struck the bear, which has been causing a wildlife-watching sensation by frequenting the roadside along Togwotee Pass with her cub.
“We have it as a secondhand report,” said Brad Hovinga, the Wyoming Game and Fish Department’s Jackson regional supervisor.
Game and Fish responded to a report that bear 863 — not her cub — had been struck by a vehicle by initiating a ground search. Unable to locate her on the ground, the agency decided to fly over the area, Hovinga said Thursday.
Game and Fish did not see bear 863, but located a signal from her GPS tracking collar, which was not giving off a mortality signal.
“She was actually 3 miles north of that location” where she was reportedly hit, Hovinga said. “Based on the reports, it didn’t sound like the cub was with her.”
Game and Fish has been fielding reports of the cub showing up along the roadside. One wildlife watcher posted pictures on social media of a lone cub photographed Thursday hanging out along the highway without a mother bear in sight.
“We’re monitoring that 863 sow, and we’re trying to monitor that cub if it shows back up around the road,” Hovinga said. “We’re currently working with [the U.S.] Fish and Wildlife Service, because they have the call about how this is handled.”
Grizzly 863 has gained notoriety and sparked debate about how to manage roadside bears. Nicknamed Felicia by wildlife watchers, she originally had two cubs.
On the morning of May 14, she became separated from her cubs likely while dodging an aggressive male. Wildlife watchers witnessed her fruitlessly searching for the two younglings, her first litter.
Game and Fish then used horn honking and cracker shells to shoo her away from Highway 26.
Photographers and bear advocates have questioned the hazing, while wildlife managers have warned that the bears don’t mix well with fast-moving vehicles and people.
Experts hypothesize that such bears, typically females, are making a strategic choice when they position themselves along busy roads. They’re trying to avoid males that, in their attempt to mate with as many females as possible, will often kill cubs to cause the mother’s body to revert to reproductive mode.
Felicia reunited the next day with one cub but not the other.
As the mother and cub continued returning to the roadside, the Bridger-Teton National Forest and the Wyoming Department of Transportation have posted reduced speed limits and digital signs just outside Jackson and just west of Dubois to alert drivers to the wandering grizzlies in the area.
Bridger-Teton spokesman Evan Guzik said forest staff are working with Game and Fish to do what they can to keep the bears and people safe.
“We have signs up there. We have personnel up there. And we’re coordinating with Game and Fish to make sure there is a presence,” Guzik said Friday.
Togwotee Pass has spelled doom for at least two grizzlies in recent years.
Contact Rebecca Huntington at 732-7078 or firstname.lastname@example.org.