To join the official “numbered” bear club — like Wyoming’s beloved Grizzly 399 — a bruin must be an actual study subject, a wildlife biologist said.
Otherwise, it’s up to the public to name the bear. That will likely be the case with 399’s newest offspring, although there’s yet to be a consensus over what to call the cub.
Get Captured, Get A Number
“Bear numbers are assigned in consecutive order as they are captured throughout the Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem, but only to bears that are handled and radio-collared as research captures or conflict captures,” supervisory research wildlife biologist Frank van Manen told Cowboy State Daily.
He heads the U.S. Geological Survey’s Interagency Grizzly Bear Study Team, which monitors and studies grizzlies throughout the Yellowstone and Grand Teton national parks, as well as the surrounding wildlands in Wyoming, Montana and Idaho.
“So, 399's cub does not have a bear number,” van Manen said. “That may change if it is captured and radio-collared as a subadult or adult in the future.”
More Than 1,000 Grizzly Numbers Assigned
As of the end of 2022, the bear study team was up to Grizzly 1,091. However, that doesn’t mean there are 1,091 collared grizzlies running around the Greater Yellowstone, van Manen said. That’s simply the sum total of numbers assigned over the course of years of research.
Moreover, sometimes a bear can get more than one number, he said.
“With captures through 2022, we are currently at number 1,091, although there are slightly fewer than 1,091 unique individuals in our database,” he said. “For example, in several instances we captured a bear that was assigned a new bear number, but later was identified as already being in the database based on genetic evidence and was re-assigned its first number.”
Out Of 55,000 North American Griz, Wyoming Has 600
It's estimated that there roughly 1,090 grizzlies in total in the entire Yellowstone Ecosystem, including 600 in Wyoming.
The grand total of grizzlies in North America is about 55,000. That includes 30,000 in Alaska and 21,000 in Canada.
In the lower 48 states, Montana has the most grizzlies with an estimated 1,800 to 2,000. That includes not only its Greater Yellowstone population, but also roughly 1,000 grizzlies in the Glacier National Park ecosystem. Washington state has an estimated 500 grizzlies, and Idaho comes in last with only 80-100 thought to live there.
Name Suggestions For New Cub Abound
Most North American grizzlies go their entire lives without being assigned numbers or given names. But in 399’s home turf in and around Teton Park, names and numbers are common.
Some of the better-known ones include Grizzly 610, one of 399’s adult offspring who has developed following of her own. Blondie and Felica also have many fans and social media followers.
And then there’s the super-sized Bruno, thought to be the father of many of 399’s cubs, including perhaps the new one.
As for that cub’s name, suggestions such as Tuxedo or Pearl were inspired by the cub’s unique white collar in the fur across its chest. However, some observers say that marking could disappear as the cub ages.
Rowdy has also been suggested because of the cub’s energetic personality, as well as Miracle. The latter is inspired by the fact that age 27, 399 might be the oldest grizzly momma ever recorded.
Several of 399’s fans have emailed suggestions to Cowboy State Daily.
Nick Onaitis likes Paddington, while Doug Rellstab said Crown would be appropriate as “399’s crowning cub. Like a coronation of a monarch.”
Daniela Melton thinks Solo would be appropriate, as a single cub contrasts the quadruplets 399 had in 2020.
However, outfitter Scott Hocking suggested that naming grizzlies is in poor taste.
“It’s is demeaning and frivolous to infer a moniker on a predator of that skill set,” he wrote in an email.
Mark Heinz can be reached at Mark@CowboyStateDaily.com.