How Grizzly 399 Became a Wyoming Legend and Why That’s a Problem
Bears get a lot of attention in Wyoming, but none quite as much as Grizzly 399. She has become a legend and that has become a big problem this year more than most.
If you're somehow not familiar with Grizzly 399, she was born in 1996 according to Wikipedia. Over the years she has developed a following greater than any other bear to the point where she has a children's book written about her and even has a Facebook and Twitter account.
Grizzly 399's popularity has gone to another level this year as she has been spotted with 4 cubs. It's not common for a 24-year-old grizzly to have that many cubs which has led to a feeding frenzy of tourists and photographers.
What's the problem with a grizzly getting this much attention? Plenty. As we recently shared, a Grand Teton National Park ranger was seen trying to keep dozens of photographers away from Grizzly 399. Some appeared to be as close as 10 to 20 yards.
Wikipedia reports that there are upwards of 40 photographers who trail Grizzly 399 and her cubs not to mention the many tourists who will regularly get out of their vehicles to try and get a glimpse of this famous bear. The belief is that she's become so accustomed to humans being around that she's no danger to them. It seems that everyone has forgotten that this is a wild grizzly bear.
The hype around Grizzly 399 has become so ridiculous that even her cubs now have a following including her daughter that she and her cubs recently were photographed with.
I find bears fascinating and it would be disingenuous for me to claim that I don't enjoy seeing compelling video and pictures of bears so perhaps I'm part of the problem. But, my fear is that it would only take one encounter where Grizzly 399 sees a human get too close and perceives them as a threat to her cubs that this could become a tragedy as much for the bear as for the human.
Bear Smart is a great resource for understanding how bears can have predictable behavior, but can also change in a heartbeat. To think of an iconic animal being put in danger because humans won't allow her space is a real problem and this year seems to only have made the issue worse.