Grizzly 399 and her cubs walk below the Tetons as they search for food in Willow Flats. (Tom Mangelsen)

One of Grand Teton National Park’s premier attractions — mother grizzly bear no. 399 — emerged from her den with her two yearling cubs a few weeks ago.

Believed to be 23 years old, 399 is remarkable for her regular birthing of cubs and for raising them in full view of a fascinated public. Just last week, observers documented her and her cubs eluding a big boar bear nicknamed Bruno, who some believe is interested in a teddy tango.

It may be time for her to kick her two cubs off to fend for themselves. Will she  reproduce yet again?

Such speculation titillates gawkers, photographers, nature lovers and almost everybody who passes by and sees the grizzlies. In the area near the Oxbow Bend of the Snake River there are two grizzly mothers with two cubs each, two male grizzlies and perhaps even more bruins, Denise Germann, park spokeswoman, said.

Roger Hayden, a board member of Wyoming Wildlife Advocates who recently got a glimpse and photograph of 399, said “it was pretty exciting.”

“I’m just amazed she’s still here and still reproducing and smart enough to get around when there are so many people,” he said.

Grand Teton National Park authorities have issued approximately six citations for “willfully approaching, remaining, viewing or engaging in any activity within 100 yards of bears or wolves or creating or contributing to a potential hazardous condition or situation,” Germann said. The infraction carries a maximum $5,000 fine and/or six months in jail upon conviction.

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“Our staff, including wildlife brigade, work hard to create and maintain safe viewing opportunities for park visitors and protection of the wildlife,” Germann said in an email.

Wildlife photographer Tom Mangelsen got this picture of 399 and her cubs earlier this year as they walked across Willow Flats. The owner of Images of Nature galleries, he has photographed the famous mother for years and published many of his images in the book Grizzlies of Pilgrim Creek.

Angus M. Thuermer Jr. is the natural resources reporter for WyoFile. He is a veteran Wyoming reporter and editor with more than 35 years experience in Wyoming. Contact him at or (307)...

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