She has lived her entire life in the spotlight: hounded by photographers, stalked by tourists, chronicled by unverified social media stan accounts. Her alleged 24 (give or take) descendants have known no peace; actually, several of them have died from interacting with the throngs of fans and/or male bears. To be clear, this is not about a TV novelty mother who leveraged her two dozen kids into a reality series, but about Grizzly 399, the most famous grizzly bear in the world, who apparently “hasn’t been seen in over a month” and “may have ‘eloped’” with a “portly male grizzly known as ‘Bruno.’”
Grizzly 399 has been in the public eye since 2007, when she and three of her cubs started hanging out by the side of the road in Grand Teton National Park and ingratiating herself with some of the campers and athletic types who just love Tetons. Soon, stans started a Twitter and Facebook page to follow her exploits; she became so popular outlets started calling her the “Angelina Jolie of grizzlies.” The pilgrimages to see 399 became so chaotic that the park had to start a bear management force called the “Grand Teton Wildlife Brigade” to help keep the human tourists and the park’s ursine residents apart. That was for the bears’ good and to get a handle on “wildlife-generated traffic congestion” (such as “elk jams, bison jams, moose jams…[at least one] beaver jam…[and] bear jams”) — but also to prevent 399 and her peers from mauling from random hikers, as she unfortunately did in 2006 (rangers ruled it self-defense at the time).
But now, Grizzly 399, who weighs in around 400 pounds and stands at almost seven feet, has evaded even her most devoted bear handlers for more than a month. “Nobody knows where she is,” Grizzly 399 fan Jack Bayles, who co-founded a website dedicated to Grizzly 399 photos, videos, and novelty merch called “Team 399,” told Cowboy State Daily last week. Perhaps she’s been in hiding, since game wardens killed one of her cubs in July over “alleged dangerous behavior toward humans.”
But longtime followers suspect Grizz may be head over heels; Bayles told Cowboy State Daily that “399 is known to prefer privacy for courtship and mating.” Apparently, the aforementioned Bruno, who was rumored to have fathered some of her cubs, was spotted courting 399 earlier in the year. (According to “BearSmart.com,” this typically involves “a male suitor trail[ing] his prospective mate from a distance, smelling her daybeds and sniffing her urine to analyze how receptive she is,” as the female runs away “playing hard to get.” She gradually lets him get closer until they make physical contact, at which point the bears “nuzzle and chew on each other’s head and neck and may even wrestle a little.”) Romance lives.
Grizz is 26, which, like all women, means she’s now very old. But she may still have a few more birthing years before she kicks it. Grizzlies can live up to 30 years in the wild before they die, usually of tooth decay that prevents them from eating. Bayles said he checked out her chompers by way of telephoto lenses, and they remain “in fairly good shape.” Congrats to Bruno, the lucky boy.