The cub of America’s famous female grizzly bear named No. 399 was killed by a car. Deby Dixon, a wildlife photographer who recently wrote for Animalia about orphaned bison in Yellowstone, said she set out Monday morning to the spot on Pilgrim Creek Road where 399 can often be found.
Dixon hoped to take photos of the grizzly bear, but instead, she said, she happened upon what looked like an accident scene: The road was coned off, she said, and members of the park’s volunteer Wildlife Brigade, which manages the roadside “wildlife jams” that occur when too many tourists stop to gawk at the animals, told her that the cub had become the victim of a hit-and-run.
“The death of this cub is especially tragic since Grizzly 399 is nearing the end of her reproductive life,” Wyoming Wildlife Advocates wrote on its Facebook page. “399’s cub, known as Snowy or Spirit by the bear watchers of Grand Teton, was adored for its antics and notably white face and will be sorely missed.”
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In a statement released later on Monday, the park said that the cub was one of two bears killed Sunday by drivers who did not report the collisions. An adult female black bear was fatally struck on the same road a few hours before 399’s cub, bringing the total number of Grand Teton animals killed by cars this year to 37, the park said.
Vehicles have become a growing danger to wildlife for grizzly bears in other parks as well, according to roadkill records released by Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility in 2013.
“These unfortunate incidents are an important reminder for all of us to slow down and be vigilant when we travel through the park,” said 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.”
Grizzly bear 399, Dixon said she was told, had dragged Snowy’s carcass to the side of the road. The park said its biologists found the carcass of the cub, which weighed between 40 and 50 pounds, about 40 yards from the road. They removed the body, which the park said will be “preserved and used for educational purposes.”
Grizzly 399 rocketed to fame in 2006 when she was first spotted by the roadside, probably because it seemed safer than deeper in the wilderness, where male bears sometimes kill cubs. She was known for being particularly fertile, often giving birth to triplets.
Even in Grand Teton, though, life’s no picnic for baby grizzly bears. Thomas D. Mangelsen, who spent two years photographing 399 and her progeny for his book “Grizzlies of Pilgrim Creek,” told National Geographic last month that more than half of her cubs or descendants had already perished — felled by other bears, or by run-ins with people.