Two of famous mamma grizzly bear 399’s male cubs are on a walkabout out of Jackson Hole and into the Green River valley in Sublette County.
The 2-year-old grizzlies dispersed from their home range via separate routes, Dan Thompson, Wyoming Game and Fish large carnivore supervisor, said Tuesday. They ended up, serendipitously, near the same residential area where agency personnel are busy warning denizens to secure food, trash and feed that might draw in the habituated animals, which are accustomed to such attractants.
One of the bears got an unnatural food reward about two weeks ago, Thompson said, and the bears have “poked around some residences.” But otherwise there have been no conflicts.
“Everything’s gotten buttoned up since then,” he said of the situation after the incident. “It’s been quiet — that’s been good for the bears and people.”
Thompson hopes the Jackson Hole/Grand Teton National Park paparazzi scrum won’t migrate south looking for the queen mother’s two princes, he said. Grizzly 399 emerged from her den in 2020 with four cubs, and the sight of five grizzlies roaming Jackson Hole together became a worldwide spectacle for two and a half years.
“I worry about the onslaught of people looking for them,” Thompson said. “If that happens, it’s a bad deal.”
Both cubs are foraging naturally and may not be putting on a public show like what made them famous in photographer- and tourist-thick Jackson Hole.
The tracking collars provided insight to grizzly dispersal, Thompson said. The bears took different paths — one heading up the Gros Ventre River drainage, the other over Togwotee Pass and then south — before crossing from the Snake and Wind river drainages to the Green River valley.
It would make sense that the males disperse naturally away from where they were raised to set up a life elsewhere, Thompson said. Biologists wonder whether one of the other four cubs might be a female.
If so, she could set up a home range in or near Grand Teton National Park, where her mother has raised a handful of litters. But there’s no firm evidence of the two un-collared cubs’ sex or their residential ambitions, Thompson said.
Because the family got food rewards at residences in Jackson Hole, there’s some worry the two Green River males might resort to bad habits.
“They learned [about] going around residences to get food,” Thompson said.
There will also soon be cattle herds grazing in the area, including traditional cow-calf pairs. Depredation of smaller cattle has been a problem in Sublette County, resulting in the removal, sometimes lethally, of grizzlies.
Wildlife managers earlier this year warned that the four cubs were due to disperse, that they had a history of habituation to people and would not be treated differently from other grizzlies just because they were 399’s offspring.
One of the Green River sub adults has shed its collar and the second tracking device will likely drop off the other animal soon, Thompson said. Both remain tattooed and have ear tags.
For now, all is quiet on the southern front.
“There’s a lot of stuff to eat for bears right now,” Thompson said. “Most of our bears are foraging naturally.
“Give the bears space,” he said.
— Mike Koshmrl contributed reporting to this story.