By Wendy Corr, Cowboy State Daily
The most famous grizzly bear in Wyoming is facing an empty nest this year.
Although hibernating now, Bear 399 – northwest Wyoming’s celebrity mama of quadruplet cubs – will most likely say goodbye to some, if not all, of her four babies this summer, according to experts.
“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.”
Bear 399 and her cubs have been the focus of many cameras since the quadruplets first appeared two summers ago. Instagram, Facebook and other social media platforms are filled with images taken by visitors to Grand Teton National Park — and that often leads to complications for the Game and Fish Department, as well as park rangers.
Almost a dozen incidents occurred in which Bear 399 and her cubs accessed compost, garbage, beehives and livestock feed and officials are concerned about the “bad” habits 399 might be teaching her cubs.
So the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and other agencies have implemented hazing strategies to keep the bruins in line.
“Through the summer and fall, we did a lot of electric fencing with the USDA Wildlife Services around bee apiaries and gardens and other things like that,” Thompson said, “which just reduces that potential for all bears and all wildlife that might be looking for an easy food source.”
Thompson pointed out that although the fame of Bear 399 and her cubs has caused headaches for some agencies, it’s pushed Game and Fish Department to move forward with projects that will help ensure the safety for other wildlife as well.
“We’re working closely with the county now on expanding their current food storage ordinance to basically county-wide,” he said. “And again, this is for all bears, not just one particular bear and their family. We’ve got the interest right now, we might as well use it – and if we can make an area safer for bears and for people it’s a win-win for everyone. I try to look at the silver linings of these types of situations.”