Famous grizzly bear 399, with her four cubs in tow, has recently been seen farther south in Teton County than she has ever ventured before. Her exploits have taken her to residential neighborhoods and across busy roads. Grizzly bears are currently in a state known as hyperphagia in which an adult bear consumes about 30,000 calories a day in preparation for hibernation. With many mouths to feed, the mountain mama is most likely in search of food sources.
As residents of one of the most wildlife-rich regions in the United States, it is the responsibility of each of us living here to ensure that we are setting a stellar example of how to coexist with wildlife. Grizzly 399 and her offspring are some of the most beloved and well-known wildlife in the world. Families, photographers, wildlife watchers, and nature enthusiasts travel to northwest Wyoming to see her and her kin. They are symbols of both the wilderness and what people closely value as we have seen with record-breaking visitation to Yellowstone and Grand Teton National Parks this year.
Teton County still does not require bear-proof trash containers countywide leaving bears vulnerable to obtaining human food and getting into conflicts. Black bears are often the victims of our lax efforts to keep human attractants away from wildlife. While no more or less important than any other bear, 399 is an icon and very public figure. If she or her cubs were to obtain human food, pet food, birdseed, or any other non-natural food sources, this could put both her and her cubs’ lives in jeopardy.
We encourage everyone to do a thorough review of their property and secure anything that might entice a bear. Pet food, bird feeders, garbage, grain, horse feed, mineral licks, fruits from trees and shrubs, dirty grills and grease are all things that may get bears in trouble. Properly securing these inside a building or garage or in a bear-proof container is of the utmost importance. Even if you are outside the priority areas for bear-proof trash cans, consider investing in one to help our wild neighbors.
When driving during any time of the year, but especially during migration seasons and the fall months, slow down and obey speed limits. Stay alert and watch for wildlife on the sides of roads. While 399 is out and about near town, stay extra vigilant and be prepared to stop. When not interfering with other drivers, use high-beams at night to look for eyes on the side of the road and flash other drivers to alert them to the presence of wildlife.
We live in a special place. We have a responsibility to protect the wildlife that make this place special. As these bears are so closely watched and loved, the community expects Game and Fish to handle their management with extreme care and do all they can to keep this beloved bear family safe and protected.
Wyoming Wildlife Advocates is fighting to keep grizzlies protected because if no longer protected by the Endangered Species Act, 399 and other bears like her would be subjected to being hunted when outside the park boundaries. Bears have vast home ranges and are driven by their search for food. Not only are grizzlies an integral part of healthy, balanced ecosystems, they are also symbols of the American West, valued native species, and revered by some Indigenous peoples as relatives and teachers.
Let’s join together and all do our part to protect grizzly 399, her cubs, and all the other wildlife that share this unique landscape with us.