Although the calendar says spring is less than two weeks away, Wyomingites know better. We’re nowhere close.
But one grizzly in Yellowstone is far more optimistic and is embracing the potential of a seasonal change. The adult bear was spotted by a pilot on Monday walking in a meadow in the west-central portion of the park.
Actually, it’s not unusual for grizzlies to be spotted this early. Last year, the first reported sighting was on March 13.
Male grizzlies come out of hibernation in early while females wait until April and May to head-out.
As always, park officials are urging the public to use caution around bears lest they become statistics.
“When bears emerge from hibernation, they look for food and often feed on elk and bison that died over the winter,” the park service said. “Sometimes, bears will react aggressively to encounters with people when feeding on carcasses.”
In other words, stay away from the bears. They aren’t interested in making friends.
On popular Yellowstone Facebook pages, the conversation immediately turned to the most famous bear in the world “399” and her four cubs.
Biologists say it will be a few weeks before they emerge and when they do, it’s not likely they will stay together as a family for very long.
“They’ll come out of the den together,” said Dan Thompson, large carnivore biologist for the Wyoming Game and Fish Department. “They’ll spend some time together for a while, but with 2-year-olds, usually they (the mama bear) will kick them off, especially when breeding starts in June, and they’ll go their separate ways.”
But Thompson told Cowboy State Daily that this particular grizzly doesn’t always do what’s expected.
“This parent in particular seems to change things very quickly,” he said.
Bear 399 will be 26 years old this year, and Thompson noted that she may be reaching the end of her child-bearing years.
“That’s pretty old for a bear to produce, and be able to forage for them,” he said. “We have documented two females with cubs of the year at age 25 — 399 would have been 24 when she had the four cubs of the year.”