Spring is finally making some headway in Teton Park, and some of the celebrity bears there have been making springtime appearances, but there’s still no sign of the biggest star of them all – Grizzly 399.
That could actually be a good indication that she has cubs, wildlife photographer Jorn Vangoidtsenhoven told Cowboy State Daily on Friday.
“If she doesn’t have cubs, she should be out by now,” he said.
Vangoidtsenhoven and other photographers and wildlife watchers have been eagerly awaiting 399 to emerge from hibernation.
“I haven’t heard from anybody who says they’ve seen her yet,” he said.
However, if the famed mama grizzly did give birth to a new litter, she might be lingering near her winter den — the exact location of which isn’t known.
And there’s still lots of snow in the general area 399's den is thought to be, Vangoidtsenhoven added.
“It’s that knee-deep, slushy snow. Not that kind that a mother grizzly with small cubs would be out in,” he said.
Lumbering ‘Bruno’ Could Be The Dad
Last summer and fall, 399 was seen in the company of a huge male grizzly called “Bruno,” who has fathered cubs with 399 and other females in the area.
“I think it’s fair to say that they ‘made it,’” Vangoidtsenhoven said, meaning 399 might very well have been pregnant when she went into hibernation.
Male grizzlies usually emerge from hibernation early, and Bruno has been seen lumbering about since March, Vangoidtsenhoven said.
At age 27, 399 is old for her species – grizzlies rarely live past 30 in the wild. Yet even into her advanced years, she’s been fruitful. She gave birth to an almost-unheard of litter of four cubs in 2020.
Those cubs split from 399 last summer. There was a firestorm or controversy last July when one of them, a male, was killed by game wardens for alleged dangerous behavior around human settlements.
While 399 remains elusive, one of her grandchildren, Grizzly 926, the “Cunningham Bear,” has been seen out and about with her 2-year old cubs, 399’s great-grandcubs, Vangoidtsenhoven said.
Those cubs should be mature enough to take off on their own this year, he said.
‘Blondie’ Also Late For The Show
Grizzly 399 gained fame over the years by bringing her cubs near roadways and other occupied areas where they could be viewed by adoring throngs. And through photos and videos posted by Vangoidtsenhoven and others, she gained a global social media following.
Bringing the cubs near crowds was a smart move on 399’s part because it helped keep them safe from male grizzlies, he said.
Another female grizzly that’s used that tactic to protect her cubs is “Blondie.”
Blondie also gained a large following of fans, but hasn’t been spotted yet this spring, Vangoidtsenhoven said. She suffered a blow last June when a male grizzly killed all three of her cubs.
It’s not known whether she mated again last summer or fall, Vangoidtsenhoven said.
One of her older cubs, “Fritter” has been spotted this spring.
Another popular grizzly mom, Grizzly 16, went into hibernation with three cubs last fall, and many fans are waiting for them to reappear as well.
Mark Heinz can be reached at Mark@CowboyStateDaily.com