JACKSON — The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, Grand Teton National Park, Bridger-Teton National Forest, and Wyoming Game & Fish Department are working together to mitigate conflicts in bear country, but success can only be achieved with the support of local communities.
Grizzly bear 399 will soon emerge from her den with four offspring, who will likely disperse this spring. During the last two years, grizzly bear 399 and her cubs spent a significant amount of time near residential areas and received numerous food rewards. These events serve as a critical reminder that all of Jackson and Teton County are in occupied grizzly bear habitat.
The community can make a difference in a bear’s life by doing its part to ensure bears never obtain food rewards, whether you call the Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem home or are just passing through. Residents of local communities are encouraged to secure attractants around their homes and store all garbage within bear-resistant containers. Attractants include items with a scent, such as trash, livestock feed, compost, or beehives. Ensure bird feeders are at least ten feet up, and four feet out from any building. Help your neighbors create a bear-wise community to protect wildlife. It may be cliché; however, more often than not, “a fed bear is a dead bear.”
While the interagency partners cannot predict what these bears will do this year, data and experience have demonstrated that bears who have learned to associate people with a food source often repeat the behavior. Young bears have a higher potential to become increasingly emboldened in seeking out foods in and around human development, especially if they have learned to acquire food there in the past. When this food-conditioned behavior occurs, management options for bear and human safety become limited.
Although we hope to prevent these young bears from coming into conflict with people, the potential for conflict is very high. As interagency partners, we will continue our collective efforts to prevent conflicts between bears and people in Teton County. However, we cannot do this alone. Whether you are a resident or visitor, we are asking for your help to protect the livelihood of grizzly bear 399 and her offspring by securing attractants and practicing proper food storage. The survival of grizzly bears depends on all of us.
History of grizzly bear 399
Grizzly bear 399 is a 26-year-old female with four two-year-old cubs whose home range is historically centered on Grand Teton National Park (GTNP) and the Bridger-Teton National Forest. Grizzly bear 399 is often visible from roadways in GTNP as she forages on natural foods. She is habituated and generally, but not always, displays little reaction to human presence.
2007: Grizzly bear 399 was involved in a human-bear conflict when she mauled a hiker in GTNP after she and her three yearling cubs were feeding on an elk carcass and were surprised by a hiker near Jackson Lake Lodge. The hiker was bitten on the buttocks, and the encounter was classified as “defensive.” No management action was taken.
2008 – 2011: Two conflicts were documented for grizzly bear 399, including accessing unsecured trash at a campsite and obtaining birdseed at a residence.
2012 – 2019: No conflicts were documented for grizzly bear 399 during these years. She was frequently observed from roadways within GTNP while raising several litters of cubs. Her roadside presence was met with significant crowds of wildlife watchers.
2020-2021: During the fall of 2020 and 2021, grizzly bear 399 and her four cubs gained access to unsecured beehives, compost, and livestock grain on multiple occasions (five in 2020 and seventeen in 2021). The frequency of food rewards increased considerably during Fall 2021 and included two incidents involving the family group accessing unsecured garbage. On November 9, 2021, the five bears walked through downtown Jackson.
For more information about staying safe in bear country, please visit the Interagency Grizzly Bear Committee Bear Aware page.