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399 cubs collared amid escalating conflicts, heightened monitoring efforts

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Grizzly bear 399

Grizzly bear 399 and her four cubs cross the road in southern Jackson Hole as Cindy Campbell stops traffic on Nov. 17, 2020.

Wildlife managers radio-collared two of grizzly 399’s cubs near Grand Teton National Park on Saturday, in an effort to minimize the bears’ conflicts with humans.

The collaring comes amid efforts by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and other state and federal agencies to increase surveillance of 399 and her four yearlings, following the bears’ increasingly risky behaviors since mid-summer, the service said this weekend.

In the span of less than three months, 399 got into illicit food sources — beekeepers’ honey and livestock feed — 10 different times. While it wasn’t her first time demonstrating a taste for residential food sources, officials said it showed an escalating pattern. The agencies responded by hazing the bears and upping monitoring efforts.

Worried that 399 is imparting dangerous habits on her cubs, which will soon go off on their own as subadults, officials hope that collaring will keep them better informed of the bears’ location and enable them to employ more proactive conflict-prevention tactics. One of 399’s adult offspring, grizzly 962, was euthanized last month as a result of repeated food-seeking behaviors.

Two of the three cubs were captured by the interagency team, Fish and Wildlife said. All three were then released together near 399 and the fourth cub.

“This preventive step will help us mitigate further conflicts to protect grizzly bear #399, her yearlings, and the public,” Matt Hogan, the service’s acting regional director, said in a statement.

The agency emphasized that the best way to protect the animals from adopting harmful food-seeking patterns is to secure possible food sources and mitigate the problem before it starts.

Grizzlies are currently protected as a threatened species under the federal Endangered Species Act, and managed jointly by the Fish and Wildlife Service and the Wyoming Game and Fish Department. Because the bears have met the population targets met in their recovery plan, Wyoming wants to see authority over the species returned to the state.


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