Grizzly 399, The Most Famous Bear In The World, Gets Her Own 8-Foot Bronze Statue

An 8-foot-tall statue of Grizzly 399 with the four cubs she raised in 2020 was dedicated Saturday at its new home at the National Museum of Military Vehicles in Dubois. The bronze on the statue reads, “Queen of the Rockies.”

AR
Andrew Rossi

June 02, 20244 min read

Someone poses next to the bronze sculpture of Grizzly 399. The sculpture was created at Eagle Bronze in Lander.
Someone poses next to the bronze sculpture of Grizzly 399. The sculpture was created at Eagle Bronze in Lander. (Andrew Rossi, Cowboy State Daily)

Already a larger-than-life Wyoming icon, the most famous bear on the planet has been immortalized in bronze in a tribute fit for the “Queen of the Rockies.”

An 8-foot-tall statue of Grizzly 399 raised on her hind legs with the four cubs she raised in 2020 at her feet was created by sculptor Sandy Scott of Eagle Bronze in Lander and was dedicated Saturday at its home at the National Museum of Military Vehicles in Dubois.

Bear In Bronze

Scott said she recalls the email she received from Adam Harris, director of the Carl Rungius Catalogue Raisonné at the National Museum of Wildlife Art in Jackson, asking if she’d be interested in honoring 399 in bronze.

“I levitated,” she said. “This is a sculptor’s dream. No grizzly has so captured the imagination like 399. Her story will be legendary forever. It was a great pleasure to be called upon to create a monumental sculpture of her and her cubs. It’s been a dream project.”

Scott sculpted a 2-foot-tall clay maquette, which was made four times larger for the finished sculpture made of foam covered with clay for the fine details. The process took more than eight months to complete.

“I was given complete artistic freedom with only three requirements,” she said. “The monument (had to) be 8 feet tall, that (399) face west, and that she be standing.”

The finished sculpture depicts Grizzly 399 at the peak of her international acclaim when she emerged from hibernation with four cubs in 2020. This made her the oldest female grizzly to reproduce in the Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem.

She’s now raising 28 and raising yet another cub, which has been named Spirit.

Eagle Bronze made a mold of Scott’s 8-foot sculpture and poured molten ingot bronze into the molds to create the finished sculpture. The pieces were welded together, covered with a patina and transported to a specially built platform outside the National Museum of Military Vehicles.

Scott said it was “an honor and a pleasure” to work with the Grizzly 399 Project on the bronze sculpture. She praised the founders and Dan Starks, the chairman and director of the National Museum of Military Vehicles, for their enthusiastic support and encouragement throughout the process.

“Monuments deal with lasting values and ideas and are an integral part of the American spirit,” she said. “It’s my hope that this monument, placed at this great museum, is a celebration of nature and a tribute of 399 who’s transformed the way we view wildlife.”

  • The 8-foot sculpture of Grizzly 399 outside the National Museum of Military Vehicles in Dubois. Sandy Scott created the large bronze piece, with the only requirements being that 399 had to be standing and looking to the west.
    The 8-foot sculpture of Grizzly 399 outside the National Museum of Military Vehicles in Dubois. Sandy Scott created the large bronze piece, with the only requirements being that 399 had to be standing and looking to the west. (Andrew Rossi, Cowboy State Daily)
  • Visitors admire the bronze sculpture of Grizzly 399 and her four cubs in Dubois. The sculpture was funded by the Grizzly 399 Project, an initiative of the Deidre Bainbridge Wildlife Fund.
    Visitors admire the bronze sculpture of Grizzly 399 and her four cubs in Dubois. The sculpture was funded by the Grizzly 399 Project, an initiative of the Deidre Bainbridge Wildlife Fund. (Andrew Rossi, Cowboy State Daily)
  • Visitors admire the bronze sculpture of Grizzly 399 and her four cubs in Dubois. The sculpture was funded by the Grizzly 399 Project, an initiative of the Deidre Bainbridge Wildlife Fund.
    Visitors admire the bronze sculpture of Grizzly 399 and her four cubs in Dubois. The sculpture was funded by the Grizzly 399 Project, an initiative of the Deidre Bainbridge Wildlife Fund. (Andrew Rossi, Cowboy State Daily)
  • Visitors admire the bronze sculpture of Grizzly 399 and her four cubs in Dubois. The sculpture was funded by the Grizzly 399 Project, an initiative of the Deidre Bainbridge Wildlife Fund.
    Visitors admire the bronze sculpture of Grizzly 399 and her four cubs in Dubois. The sculpture was funded by the Grizzly 399 Project, an initiative of the Deidre Bainbridge Wildlife Fund. (Andrew Rossi, Cowboy State Daily)

399 An Ambassador

The Grizzly 399 Project is an initiative of the Deidre Bainbridge Wildlife Fund, which has “a mission to promote wildlife, education safety, so humans and wildlife could live in peaceful harmony,” said cofounder Terri Thomas.

“We raised $550,000 to give grants to wildlife-supportive organizations that can create, implement and communicate innovative education and safety programs,” she said during the dedication ceremony. “We chose 399 as our ambassador and decided to erect a bronze statue to commemorate her amazing and influential life.”

The Deidre Bainbridge Wildlife Fund was created in honor of the late Deidre Bainbridge, a Jackson lawyer who dedicated her life to the conservation of grizzles throughout the Great Yellowstone Ecosystem. She was one of the driving forces behind Shoot ’Em With A Camera, an initiative to protect grizzlies from trophy hunts.

“She had an unconquerable passion for the protection of grizzly bears,” said Tim Tennyson, Bainbridge’s husband and a cofounder of the nonprofit. “She was crazy about bears, and 399 in particular.”

The bronze statue of Grizzly 399 was one of many bear-related projects funded by the organization. Others include buying bear-proof storage containers for backcountry campgrounds, a digital highway sign warning drivers of bears on the highway, and a Greater Yellowstone Wildlife Safety Guide available for free through the organization’s website.

Louisa Willcox, a grizzly ecologist and friend of Bainbridge, applauded the statue as a permanent testament to the spirit of Grizzly 399 while cautioning that the internationally famous grizzly and her offspring as still at risk.

“Grizzly 399 is superbly adapted to the rugged conditions of the Northern Rockies,” she said. “But she's perpetually at risk. While 399, 610, Blondie, Felicia, and other bear moms are safe in landscapes such as Grand Teton and Yellowstone, they’re not in neighboring landscapes.”

Willcox reminded the audience that several of 399’s cubs have been euthanized after showing too much dependence on human food, and one was poached near Jackson. In her view, it’s easy to forget that the future of Wyoming grizzly bears “lies in our hands and depends on the kindness of strangers."

Andrew Rossi can be reached at arossi@cowboystatedaily.com.

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Andrew Rossi

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