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Catching up with Grizzly 399 … again

Not pictured: Grizzly 399. A grizzly bear, but not 399.

If you’ve been following our blog for a while, you know we’re fans of the world’s most famous bear. No, not Smokey or Winnie the Pooh. We're talking about Grizzly 399. Last spring we wrote about the 28-year-old mama bear emerging from her den with her first cub since 2020. Let’s catch up with her and see how she’s doing this year.

For context, grizzly bears usually live between 20-25 years and rarely make it to their 30s. Not only is Grizzly 399 alive at 28 with a yearling cub, but she’s had 18 (known) cubs and has raised 8 of them to adulthood. Besides being old and having a lot of cubs, 399 is famous for living so close to humans for most of her life, giving us insight into her day-to-day routines and allowing us to watch her raise generations of cubs. Last year, she became the oldest known grizzly in the Greater Yellowstone area to have a cub. Conservationists call her an ambassador for her species.

Wildlife photographers Tom Mangelsen and Jorn Vangoidtsenhoven have dedicated a tremendous amount of time to photographing 399. In late April, they reported that 399 and her cub, Spirit, had emerged from their den looking fit. Reports also say that Spirit is “enormous,” likely because he’s her only cub this year. Perks of being an only child, right Spirit?

Speaking of Tom Mangelsen, his work helped propel 399 to greater stardom with the 2024 documentary 399: Queen of the Tetons. The film centers on the year 2020—a memorable year for all of us, but especially for the mama bear when she emerged from her den with quadruplet cubs. It also delves into the larger issue of delisting grizzlies in Montana, Wyoming, and Idaho.

Planning on being in Grand Teton National Park this summer? Let us know if you spot 399! Just remember, despite her fame and relatability, she is, in fact, a very wild animal.

Breanne Kunz was raised in the Pacific Northwest but grew up spending summers in Idaho and frequently visiting Jackson Hole, Grand Teton National Park, and Yellowstone National Park. She is a wife and mom who likes to write and travel and wants to travel more. She respects anyone who can handle more than two kids at once.

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