By Ellen Fike, Cowboy State Daily
One of famed grizzly bear 399’s cubs was hazed away from a Jackson residential area last week, just days after the bear family split up for good.
The cub, one of the two that were collared back in November, was frightened out of a Jackson subdivision on Friday morning by a vehicle and “cracker shells,” shotgun shells that explode and shoot sparks in the air, Wyoming Game and Fish grizzly biologist Dan Thompson told Cowboy State Daily on Monday.
“The bear left the area and crossed the river, heading back north,” Thompson said. “This is nothing new or unique, as hazing and aversive conditioning have been part of grizzly bear conservation for over four decades.”
Thompson added that the Game and Fish Department staff is repeating its plea for the public to give the 399 cubs, along with all other bears and wildlife, plenty of space.
“Pressuring bears is a detriment to them and people and can result in very negative circumstances for both species,” Thompson said.
Jack Bayles, co-founder of the Team 399 website, told Cowboy State Daily on Monday that while hazing can be hard for humans to watch, it is also a necessity at times.
“The sooner the cubs learn to stay out of the neighborhoods, the longer they will live,” he said.
Last week, Team 399 reported that 399 and her four youngest cubs were in the process of separating as the yearlings begin to age into adulthood. Additionally, 399 seems to have a new male suitor, which Team 399 has affectionally nicknamed “Bruno.”
Thompson told Cowboy State Daily on Friday that this was a pretty common occurrence among bears, with the elder ones courting and the younger ones leaving the den to make a life as an independent bear.
“Sometimes the movement away from the maternal female takes a little more ‘coaxing’ to leave, but it is natural for two-year-old-offspring to leave the mother,” he said. “With a large litter like this, some of the siblings may travel together for a bit or separate, depending on sex and food availability”
Thompson added that male bears tend to naturally disperse from their natal area, while females usually try to develop a home range near their mothers.
“There may be some commingling and reunions in the next few days or weeks, but those young should be independent from her the majority of the summer and rest of their lives,” Thompson said.
Thompson previously said that he did not necessarily expect 399 to breed again since she is relatively old for a bear at 26, but also noted that she continues to surprise both staff at the Game and Fish Department and Grand Teton National Park.