The Legacy of Grizzly 399
Grizzly 399 is arguably the most famous grizzly bear in the world. For the past 10 years, she has delighted visitors to Grand Teton National Park with her frequent appearances along the roadside in the general vicinity of the Oxbow Bend of the Snake River. I began following her with my camera about 10 years ago, when perhaps only a dozen other photographers were doing the same in April and May — the months when bears are most visible. In the intervening years, the number of photographers following 399, her offspring and other roadside park bears has grown to perhaps 40 or 50. They come to the park from all over the country and world, and stay for weeks or even months.
Now 19 years old, 399 is considered the grand matriarch of the park’s roadside bears. In the spring of 2015, she chased off her two, two-and-a-half-year-old cubs because she was ready to mate once again. Grizzlies mate in the spring, but fertilized embryos don’t implant and begin to develop until she goes into hibernation. She gives birth in February. The cubs weigh less than a pound, have no fur and are blind. Grizzly sows with new cubs are the last to emerge from hibernation, usually mid May.
In the spring of 2015, 10 grizzlies were roaming the roadside areas of the park. They included 399, the two sub adults she chased away, a grizzly named Blondie and her three yearling cubs, 399’s daughter grizzly 610 and her two cubs of the year. Several males were wandering around the area as well, but they quickly disappeared.