Tom Mangelsen received a text from his neighbor.
Bear 399 and her cubs were traipsing around his neighborhood in the late afternoon, sniffing out berries and perhaps even checking out a hot tub, read the text. Reacting to the report of the world’s most famous bear and her cubs casually walking around a finely manicured backyard at the base of the Tetons, Mangelsen acted quickly on the tip. He found 399 in the neighborhood and swung wide the car door, his camera moving with the pace of his body.
“The car started slowly moving forward without me,” Mangelsen said of his sudden lapse in applying the parking brake in favor of documenting Grizzly 399.
He paused and then added, “I’ve spent 150 days straight photographing that bear and her cubs. And in all that time I’m never at a loss for my fascination and passion for her. I’m also not sure what the berry crop is going to produce this season.”
Mangelsen is one of the world’s most prolific and fervent wildlife photographers, his works hanging in some of the world’s most famous galleries and collections while his photography continues to push the boundaries of what defines Western conservation.
While he has traveled the globe to the most remote place, uncovering the secrets that only Mother Nature can reveal on her own time, Grizzly 399 has become Mangelsen’s most beloved animal to photograph and observe.
“They are like us,” he said of grizzly bears. “They feel joy, grief and love. When cubs are upset they nurse not because they are hungry, but because it’s a closeness, an emotional, physical and chemical response to being home.”
For Mangelsen 399 is the tangible ideal of home; home in the physical sense that she represents the Tetons and the wildness of the Greater Yellowstone Region, but also kindles feelings of comfort and familiarity that only home can provide.
Mangelsen has also been traveling to some favorite haunts for new photography, namely his home state of Nebraska. From his Nebraska photos he will be pleased to present new images of sandhill cranes and the greater prairie chicken at his gallery, Images of Nature, during the Fall Arts Festival.
He also recently returned from Laramie, where he will show new works of wild horses at the gallery along with new images of black wolves and the great gray owl.
And, of course, he will be unveiling new images of 399 and her famous quadruplets during the Fall Arts Festival.
Mangelsen Images of Nature is located at 170 N. Cache St. just up the street from the famous Million Dollar Cowboy Bar. ￼
“I’ve spent 150 days straight photographing that bear and her cubs. And in all that time I’m never at a loss for my fascination and passion for her.” — Thomas Mangelsen wildlife photographer