By Ellen Fike, Cowboy State Daily
Famed grizzly bear 399 and her four cubs have left the confines of Grand Teton National Park and are heading south, likely the last time they will do so as a family pack.
Wyoming Game and Fish Department grizzly bear biologist Dan Thompson told Cowboy State Daily on Friday that the 2-year-old cubs will likely separate from their mother sometime this spring and head off on their own.
“They’ve been following the Snake River corridor,” Thompson said. “They’re traveling together now, but that could change. They could go off in different directions, but a lot of things could happen.”
The bears were first seen out of their den right around Easter, meaning they spent less than a week in the park before heading south.
Thompson did not know the sex of the four offspring, but said he believed at least two of the yearlings are male.
Since 399 and her cubs have been known for getting into food sources associated with humans, such as garbage and beehives, Thompson expressed concern for the cubs once they break away from their mother.
“They’re sub-adults, so there will be a couple years where they’re going to try and obtain a resident home range, so they probably won’t be a part of the breeding process just yet,” he said. “It would be great if they just disappeared off into the woods and went about being bears and we never heard from them again.
“But based on their behavior and habituation that we’ve seen…there’s a high chance for recidivism,” Thompson continued.
However, he noted the department has done considerable work in Teton County to try to keep potential bear attractants secure from not only 399 and her cubs, but the rest of the grizzly and black bear population.
This week, Wyoming Wildlife Advocates announced it would provide every resident in Teton County, regardless of income, a bear-proof trash can that would cut down on human/bear interactions.
WWA executive director Kristin Combs did not immediately return Cowboy State Daily’s request for comment on Friday.
Once the cubs break away from 399, Thompson said she will likely go on, living life as usual and doing what bears do: eating.
He did not necessarily expect her to breed again since she is relatively old for a bear, 26, but he also noted that she continues to surprise both staff at the Game and Fish Department and Grand Teton National Park.
“We’ve had bears live into their 30s, but that’s pretty rare,” Thompson said. “For female bears, once they hit 25, you start seeing some senescence (deterioration of characteristics). If she’s healthy, she could possibly breed again, but it also depends on what her teeth look like and a lot of other factors.”