Citing “increasingly dangerous behavior,” the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service on Tuesday authorized the Wyoming Game and Fish Department to kill a sub-adult offspring of famed grizzly bear 399.
Residents of the Upper Green River in Sublette County told WyoFile this week that a grizzly bear had been frequenting a residential area on the fringes of the Bridger-Teton National Forest. A local resident had even spotted the bear on the deck of a house in the neighborhood.
One resident reported hearing a gunshot in the neighborhood where the bear had just been seen and later reported that Wyoming Game and Fish Department had trapped a grizzly nearby.
A Fish and Wildlife spokesman wrote that he understood Wyoming Game and Fish had euthanized the grizzly — officially marked as no. 1057 — in Sublette County somewhere near Cora. Game and Fish did not return a call by presstime to confirm the location.
The bear’s dangerous behavior “included an interaction wherein a resident attempted to haze the bear from their front porch with warning shots,” the Fish and Wildlife Service said in a statement. “[T]he bear remained on the porch and showed no reaction.”
State wildlife managers recorded 13 conflicts with the bear since May of this year, the federal agency said. Fish and Wildlife “authorized this action out of concern for human safety as this bear became more emboldened in [its] behavior while seeking food rewards and habituation to the presence of humans,” the statement said.
Grizzlies remain protected by the Endangered Species Act. Trapping and killing one requires authorization by the federal agency.
Two of 399’s cubs — half of a litter of four that emerged from a den near Grand Teton National Park in the spring of 2020 — left Jackson Hole earlier this year after being weaned by their mother. They showed up along the Upper Green River.
Grizzly 399, perhaps the world’s most famous grizzly, has raised litter after litter along the Oxbow Bend of the Snake River in Grand Teton National Park, some 50 miles or so from the Upper Green River. In the park and nearby she and her offspring became an annual spectacle as thousands of visitors from around the world watched them from nearby highways.
The demise of a beloved bear brought sorrow.
“It’s incredibly unfortunate,” photographer, author and bear advocate Tom Mangelsen said of the latest incident. “It’s very sad to me.”
Some attribute 399’s reproductive success in part to her home range near highways and people. Hanging out near humans may have kept her cubs away from male bears who sometimes kill offspring to turn the mother back to breeding.
But living among people has its drawbacks. Mother 399 took her four cubs on an extended walkabout in 2021 that ranged across Jackson Hole and involved several incidents or conflicts when the family obtained rewards of unnatural food like agricultural bee hives, horse feed and other unsecured attractants.
By the time two of the four cubs showed up along the Upper Green River in Sublette County earlier this year, at least one had apparently become habituated and unafraid of people, a state generally considered unnatural and dangerous.
Grizzly advocates consider 399 an ambassador for her lifelong public profile and the educational opportunities she provided. Despite her so-called “rock-star status,” wildlife officials warned that her cubs would receive no special treatment if they came into repeated conflicts with people.
The Fish and Wildlife Service said it works with the Wyoming Game and Fish and others to educate the public about reducing conflicts. “We continue to ask for the help of residents and visitors to secure attractants around homes, rental properties, and businesses,” spokesman Joe Szuszwalak wrote.
“The actions of those living [in] and visiting grizzly bear country remain vital,” he said in an email.
Game and Fish was busy earlier this week with grizzlies along the Upper Green River. Following “several depredations” of cattle, the state agency Friday captured and relocated a young male grizzly that had killed a calf, hoping the move would convince it to mend its ways.
“Things are picking up it seems across the board,” Game and Fish Large Carnivore Section Supervisor Dan Thompson told WyoFile in an email.
Mangelsen called 399 “an incredible animal,” recalling her breaking trail through chest-deep snow to lead her brood back to a den one winter.
“What she goes through to raise these to sub-adulthood is phenomenal,” he said. “To end like this is really tragic, heartbreaking.”