Grizzly 399 on the move highlights the need to be bear aware

JACKSON, Wyo. — Famous grizzly bear 399, with her four cubs in tow, has recently been seen farther south than she has ever ventured before. Her exploits have taken her to residential neighborhoods in the county.

Grizzly bears are currently in a state known as hyperphagia in which an adult bear consumes about 30,000 calories a day in preparation for hibernation. With many mouths to feed, the mountain mama is most likely in search of food sources. As residents of one of the most wildlife-rich regions in the United States, it is the responsibility of each of us living here to ensure that we are setting a stellar example of how to coexist with wildlife.

The Wyoming Game and Fish Department is monitoring grizzly bear activity in residential areas near Jackson. They say recent sightings of a well-known marked female with four cubs near Wilson serves as a critical reminder to be vigilant when outdoors and to secure attractants of any kind so they are unavailable to bears or other wildlife.

“We typically see a lot of bear activity in the fall when they start foraging around the clock in their quest to build up fat reserves before entering hibernation,” said Brad Hovinga, Game and Fish Jackson Regional wildlife supervisor. “We live in good bear habitat, so we’re always going to have bear activity in the Jackson region, but we don’t want bears in residential areas. Our job is to make sure we are looking out for human safety while keeping wildlife wild. Preventing bears from receiving food from people and becoming habituated is best for both bears and people,”

Grizzly 399 and her offspring are some of the most beloved and well-known wildlife in the world. Families, photographers, wildlife watchers, and nature enthusiasts travel to northwest Wyoming to see her and her kin. They are symbols of both the wilderness and what people closely value as we have seen with record-breaking visitation to Yellowstone and Grand Teton National Parks this year.

Teton County does not require bear-proof trash containers countywide leaving bears vulnerable to obtaining human food and getting into conflicts. Black bears are often the victims of our lax efforts to keep human attractants away from wildlife. While no more or less important than any other bear, 399 is an icon and very public figure. If she or her cubs were to obtain human food, pet food, birdseed, or any other non-natural food sources, this could put both her and her cubs’ lives in jeopardy.

“We encourage everyone to do a thorough review of their property and secure anything that might entice a bear,” said Kristin Combs, executive director of Wyoming Wildlife Advocates. “Pet food, bird feeders, garbage, grain, horse feed, mineral licks, fruits from trees and shrubs, dirty grills and grease are all things that may get bears in trouble. Properly securing these inside a building or garage or in a bear-proof container is of the utmost importance. Even if you are outside the priority areas for bear-proof trash cans, consider investing in one to help our wild neighbors.”

When driving during any time of the year, but especially during migration seasons and the fall months, slow down and obey speed limits. Stay alert and watch for wildlife on the sides of roads. While 399 is out and about near town, stay extra vigilant and be prepared to stop. When not interfering with other drivers, use high-beams at night to look for eyes on the side of the road and flash other drivers to alert them to the presence of wildlife.

We live in a special place. With it comes a responsibility to protect the wildlife that make this place special. As these bears are so closely watched and loved, the community expects Game and Fish to handle their management with extreme care and do all they can to keep this beloved bear family safe and protected.

Remember to

  • Drive slowly
  • Watch for wildlife on the sides of the roads
  • Use high-beams at night when it doesn’t interfere with oncoming traffic
  • Flash lights at oncoming traffic to warn them of wildlife ahead

Around your property

  • Secure all garbage inside
  • Only put trash cans out the morning of pickup
  • Secure all pet food, bird seed, mineral licks, horse feed, etc. inside a sturdy structure
  • Put bird feeders at least 10 feet high and 5 feet away from any structure – only feed birds in winter when bears are hibernating
  • Obey county regulations which prohibit feeding of wildlife
  • Clean grills, don’t leave grease out where bears can access it
  • Clean up fruit from trees and shrubs near homes

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