GRAND TETON NATIONAL PARK • Beloved and famous Grand Teton Grizzly Sow 399 and new set of triplet cubs made their debut yesterday to the delight of many. 399 gained her identity in 2001 when, as a five-year-old sow, she was caught in a research trap and fitted with a special collar that emitted signals. During the summer of 2004, 399 had a single cub, but the youngster disappeared, probably from a deadly encounter with an adult male grizzly which are known to kill cubs because sow grizzlies with cubs do not breed.
After losing her collar in May 2005 399 was recaptured and collared again. In late November of that year, she denned up in the Teton Wilderness north of Grand Teton National park for hibernation. The following spring, she emerged with three cubs in tow. Almost immediately, the four-hundred-pound grizzly sow and cubs drew large crowds. They became a sensation, unlike any Jackson Hole grizzly in modern memory.
We photographers and wildlife watchers of Jackson Hole and Yellowstone who have assumed the role of amateur cognitive ethologogists have concluded that 399’s predilection for frequenting areas rife with humans may be purposeful. Our ethological-projection is merely guesswork by amatures but we surmise that 399 has determined that as annoying as we humans are, we are not dangerous. Male grizzlies steer clear of human congestion therefore conjested national park habitat may be safer than truly wild grizzly habitat.
399 is remarkably attentive, passing on the instincts of survival taught by her mother and necessary to survive in a crowded human world. One of the cubs of her 2006 litter now has two cubs of her own this spring and is roaming another part of Grand Teton National Park where she is frequently seen.
All the cubs 399 delivered in 2006 reached adulthood, which is a statistical anomaly, which rarely happens in nature. Grizzly sow 399 my know what she is doing.