GRAND TETON NATIONAL PARK—On Wednesday afternoon, tourists and passersby rolling down North Park Road would slow to ask wildlife photographers like Sue Cedarholm one question: “What are you sitting here for?” 

The Jackson Hole resident was playful and blunt in her response. 

“I’d tell them, ‘I have no idea. Because we’re idiots,’” she said. “It is insane how many people will just sit here all day. Or, before she came out, how many people would sit for days and days and days waiting for her.”

The female Cedarholm was referring to is Grizzly 399, arguably the most famous bear in the world. As expected, publicity poured in immediately after the sow emerged into view on Tuesday for the first time in 2023. To the delight of what could be millions of fans, the lionized bear was accompanied by a lone cub with a distinct natal collar. That made the 27-year-old the oldest marked-and-monitored grizzly sow in the history of the Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem to bear offspring. 

The expected emergence of 27-year-old Grizzly 399 in spring 2023 caused photographers to gather roadside in Grand Teton National Park for weeks. She emerged on May 16, lone cub in tow. (Mike Romano/

It’s these superlatives and Grizzly 399’s well-known story, and her occasional struggles, that drew people from around the country in hopes of catching a sighting or snap. Photographer Kelly Larson, of Woodland Hills, Utah, had ventured to Jackson Hole for about the 12th time in the last three years. 

“She was our main objective,” Larson said. 

Objective achieved: He spotted and photographed the matriarch bruin the day she emerged and again on Wednesday morning. 

But by late-afternoon, Larson, like Cedarholm, had been sitting roadside for untold grizzly-less hours, though with no complaints. 

“She’s a legend, as far as motherhood goes,” he said. “And it’s a beautiful setting.” 

Six or so hours after Grizzly 399 was last seen, dozens of photographers and bear enthusiasts were staked out on North Park Road as a storm rolled in on May 17, 2023, hoping for another glimpse. (Mike Koshmrl/WyoFile)

His friend, Patrick Collins, chimed in, describing Grizzly 399 as “so goddamn smart. 

“I mean, she knows the depth of water that her cubs can cross,” Collins said. “If they’re too small, she’ll find a shallower place. It’s beyond human comprehension that these animals can do that.” 

Longtime Grizzly 399 admirers like Cedarholm know those traits and habits well. And, whether watching her or just waiting, they believe they are relishing the superstar’s swan song. 

“This is definitely her last cub,” Cedarholm said. “I think this is her final legacy.”

Mike Koshmrl reports on Wyoming's wildlife and natural resources. Prior to joining WyoFile, he spent nearly a decade covering the Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem’s wild places and creatures for the Jackson...

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  1. 399 is a very smart beautiful grizzly I totally respect her and all animals.some think animals are just “dumb “but they are not!! She couldvery well have another cub we will see??

  2. Oh Mike…Don’t write off 399’s future. She’s proven to be an amazing animal! Yup, she’s getting on in years…but the truth is, you just don’t know. So, cheer her on, be her biggest fan and share with us. When she does, inevitably, not appear one spring, THEN we can mourn her. But not yet!

  3. I’ve no idea why ‘people’ think ‘animals’ are stupid. Animals coexist with the Earth – something people need to follow. Our bodies are animals so we . . . live inside animals. Animals ‘download’ millions of pieces of information from their senses – and pay attention to the information. Animals are living up to their potential. They know who they are. For the most part, they do not murder. Cows do not hold in their stomachs when cars drive by – they are who they are. My dad (raised on a kind of farm – poor people from the depression era) used to keep a few cows in a small pasture behind his house and raised them for food when I was a teenager (I hated it). He also hunted for years – he grew up hunting for food so they could eat (I never really understood that about him until after he passed). As a small child I grew up with the carnage – even made me a vegetarian for years (I’m not really a veg any more). Anyway, when he got sick (to death) he became friends with the cows and insisted we make sure they had a long, peaceful life. He was forced to become a vegetarian during his death process and it changed his heart – actually death changed his heart by opening it. Once he opened his heart and became a loving man, he no longer thought animals were stupid; he admired them. His cows used to moo for him when they wanted to see him.
    When he fretted I used to tell him – let’s go see the cows – they know what to do.
    When he died they missed him. Animals are enlightened. Growing up, the only friend I had in the family was my dad’s dog, Max. He, like me, lived by his senses. I will never be friendless because of the animals. When I don’t know what to do and can’t sort life out, I go outside and watch the animals – they know. The world is only the world with animals in it. They are treasure.

  4. She is a beautiful and 399 has surprised us more than once with having cubs in her later years. Time will tell.