Grizzly End for 399’s Cub

By on June 21, 2016
Snowy takes a break while mom, 399, forages. (ANN SMITH)

Snowy takes a break while mom, 399, forages. (Ann Smith)

Jackson Hole, Wyoming — Sorrowful wildlife watchers around the world are commiserating with residents over the loss of a famous grizzly bear cub that never got a chance to live long enough to be named. The blond-faced yearling was killed by a hit-and-run motorist sometime Sunday night between the junctions of Pilgrim Creek Road and Colter Bay.

Famed bear 399 emerged from her hibernation this spring with the single cub in tow to the delight of many photographers and wildlife enthusiasts. The hulking sow has usually birthed triplets in the past but she is aging. At 20, the cub some had taken to calling “Snowy,” was likely her last. More than half of 399’s offspring are also dead.

Snowy takes watch while mom eats. (ANN SMITH)

Snowy takes watch while mom eats. (Ann Smith)

Teton Interagency Dispatch received calls from passing motorists on Sunday night just before 10 p.m. that an adult grizzly was dragging a lifeless cub from the road. It was 399 trying to pull her dead offspring to safety. Park biologists found Snowy about 40 yards from the highway and removed it for study. There have been reports that 399 appeared noticeably distraught following the incident, pacing the scene of the collision and refusing to leave the area.

In the end, it was 399’s own cagey instincts that played a role in her cub’s death. The sow has preferred to frequent roadside areas much to the delight of wildlife viewers. Some experts believed the heavily trafficked habitat chosen by the bear helped keep her cubs safe from attack from other male grizzlies more reluctant to interface with humans. But it was this practice that ultimately put her offspring in harm’s way from vehicle fatality. Two other cubs were also killed by motorists.

Park officials say another bruin was also killed in Grand Teton on the same night. An adult female black bear was struck and killed near Deadman’s Bar earlier that evening around 7:30 p.m. No one stopped or reported that collision, either.

In all, 37 animals are known to have been struck by vehicles on park roadways already this year. One grizzly bear cub, two black bears, nine deer, two bison, nine elk, two coyotes, and one red fox were involved in collisions. On average, 100 animals are hit, annually.

Snowy hitches a ride on mom. (ANN SMITH)

Snowy hitches a ride on mom. (Ann Smith)

“These unfortunate incidents are an important reminder for all of us to slow down and be vigilant when we travel through the park,” said Grand Teton superintendent David Vela. “Especially with the traffic levels that we are seeing during this busy season, it’s important to obey posted speed limits, maintain a safe following distance behind other vehicles, and be especially watchful around dawn and dusk when wildlife are more active.”

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