Famous Grand Teton National Park Grizzly Bear Causing Problems By Leading Cubs to Human Food

by Jonathan Howard

Bear 399, a famous grizzly from Grand Teton National Park is causing issues outside of the park and residents are not happy. Since summer she has spent time out of the park more than inside of it, and with four half-grown cubs, that’s an issue.

The state of Wyoming has put out a call for help to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and their grizzly bear recovery coordinator. Hilary Cooley and the department responded after a weekend of conflicts with bear 399 and residential areas. With the sow bear and her babies looking for more access to human food, Wyoming officials are at a loss.

“We had repeated conflicts over a three- or four-day period, way down south,” Mike Boyce, a biologist with Game and Fish said. “Property damage, livestock feed and apiary damage.”

The bear is 25-years old and is well-known in the area. With her four cubs, she has a lot of food to scavenge for. Now, she is spending more and more time south of the national park. This is a behavior that began in 2020. Now, it appears she has become reliant on these other sources of food.

Those sources include molasses-enriched grain left out for moose, livestock feed, a beekeeper’s colony, and they went through a compost pile as well. That was mostly last year. Now, this year with her cubs getting bigger, she has made a behavior change according to Boyce.

Right now, it appears that she is teaching her cubs some bad habits outside of Grand Teton National Park

Grand Teton National Park Bear Teaching Cubs Bad Habits

So, this year things have gotten more concerning. Officials have noticed a change in the mother’s behavior. Bear 399 is starting to teach her cubs how to get into human sources of food. That is something that is concerning. It has made the activity more destructive and sent them further into residential areas.

So far, there have been 10 conflicts with 399. That’s just since August. In five of those incidents, the bear got into apiaries and into beekeepers’ honey. While that is a little comical in a way, a bear eating honey, it is no laughing matter. In the other five situations, the grizzly family found livestock grain and began chowing down. There has been retaliation with nonlethal projectiles known as cracker shells as well as other means.

Based on last winter, the bear might not rest in Grand Teton National Park until January. That means there are still two months or more until she decides to head into hibernation. Her cubs have become larger and will prove more dangerous if they keep getting into these other sources of food. It is going to be a tough fight, but officials have been making plans.

If not, bear 399 or her cubs could be put down. Other relatives of the famous bear have been put down in the past for dangerous activity.