A Yellowstone grizzly was shot just outside the national park after 25 years as one of the most frequently studied and photographed bears in the region. The Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks department announced the grizzly news in a statement in late April, though the Yellowstone shooting actually took place in November.
Since the grizzly bear is a threatened species, Scarface’s death is under investigation by federal authorities, The Daily Mail reports. The animal, formally known as Number 211 but nicknamed for the slashes on his face, was captured by scientists 17 times in his life, allowing them to document his health.
At his largest, he weighed 600 pounds, but as an elderly grizzly he clocked in at only 338 the last time he was captured in 2015. He often allowed humans to approach him quite closely, making him a favorite subject for photographers at Yellowstone.
After the Yellowstone grizzly was shot, it is sure to fuel opposition to a recent Fish and Wildlife proposal to remove federal protections for grizzly bears in the so-called Greater Yellowstone Area, which could lead Montana, Idaho and Wyoming to approve hunting of the animals. Grizzlies were declared threatened in the 1970s, when hunting, trapping and other issues caused their population to fall below 150.
Federal officials say the bears’ population has recovered, but many conservation and wildlife organizations are fighting the proposal. The Sierra Club, for example, has said the “bears’ naturally slow reproductive rate, loss of key food sources to climate change, and state plans to reduce numbers through methods like trophy hunts, all spell disaster.”
Scarface’s killing is being widely mourned among those familiar with the Yellowstone grizzly. He’d earned a reputation as an unflappable “king of the woods,” in the words of Kerry Gunther, Yellowstone National Park’s bear management program leader, The Chicago Tribune reported.
The Yellowstone grizzly shot was first captured in 1993, when he was a “sub-adult” bear weighing 150 pounds. At his peak, the bruin tipped the scales at about 600 pounds, according to Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks. But he’d grown emaciated in recent years, the agency said, noting that less than 5 percent of male grizzlies live to the age of 25.
Scarface owed much of his fame to the scuffles with other bears — over females, carcasses and dominance — that had made his face so recognizable, and that had so destroyed his right ear that it flopped over. Photographers, in particular, have sung his praises — and, in recent days, angrily mourned his loss.
“I’ve seen him almost kill a black bear for getting too close to his carcass in Antelope Valley and I’ve seen him barely bat an eyelash at people who find themselves far too close,” nature photographer Simon Jackson of Ghost Bear Photography wrote on his blog two years ago, adding that he’d seen the bear 20 times over the years. “There is no one animal that has inspired me like Scarface nor any animal that has played such a profound role in defining the person I’ve become.”
The New York Post revealed new challenges for grizzly bears. Last week, as news spread after the Yellowstone grizzly was shot, Jackson urged people to campaign against the proposal to de-list the grizzly bear.