A grizzly that was captured and euthanized last summer was recently discovered to be the oldest-known grizzly in the greater Yellowstone ecosystem.
At 34, the male grizzly identified as “Grizzly 168” was one of four that Wyoming Game and Fish biologists have found that have lived more than three decades. Usually, females tend to live longer.
“We keep a life history of every animal we’ve ever handled, and we’ve studied more than 1,000 bears,” Game and Fish large carnivore section supervisor Dan Thompson told Cowboy State Daily on Wednesday. “We only know of four bears that have lived 30-plus years. It’s a pretty rare occurrence.”
Grizzlies have an average lifespan of 20 to 25 years, Thompson said.
Grizzly 168 was captured last July after preying on calves and was ultimately euthanized due to its age and relatively poor health. The bear’s teeth had mostly fallen out or worn away, leaving three large nubs in its mouth.
Thompson said the bear’s omnivore lifestyle was the likely reason it had managed to stay alive so long. Instead of only relying on fresh meat for their diets, bears can subsist on plants, bugs and around 70 more types of food found in the Yellowstone ecosystem.
The Yellowstone ecosystem has numerous bears in their 20s that are still doing pretty well, Thompson said.
“I think it speaks to the life history and behavioral strategies of grizzly bears,” Thompson said. “They’re honestly the epitome of opportunism and resiliency. They’re so adaptable.”