Grizzly 399 and family pass through Jackson

JACKSON — When Cache Creek Drive resident Ann Smith got word after dark Tuesday night that Grizzly 399 and her string of cubs were traveling down the streets of Jackson, she immediately went to see for herself.

Dressed in pajamas, she got into her car.

“And while I was out and about, [Grizzly 399] was in my yard,” Smith told the Jackson Hole Daily. “I just really can’t believe she was there, so close to me. And I’m so relieved that she’s safe and they’re together again and they all made it back to the park.”

The prints of grizzlies left behind in Smith’s backyard told the story of the famous ursine family’s passage. And a neighbor’s remote camera that caught footage of them left no doubt.

Indeed, five grizzly bears padded right through the heart of residential Jackson on Tuesday night. Jackson police officers and federal wildlife officials were on scene, helping to escort them.

Grizzly 399 and her four cubs are a world-renowned family group that is the focus of an intensive, ongoing surveillance effort intended to keep them out of trouble and alive.

According to a town of Jackson press release, the grizzly family traveled from Aspen Drive toward Saddle Butte, then headed north from there.

“We hope that she continues in that direction,” Jackson Police Chief Michelle Weber said in a press release.

By Wednesday morning, according to Smith, the five-grizzly family was seen in the cottonwoods lining the Gros Ventre River. As word spread, legions of locals went to look for them.

“Everybody and their brother is out here, cruising around wasting gasoline,” Smith said. “We all just want to see for ourselves and verify that they really are still together.”

Last weekend the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service successfully captured and began electronically tracking two of Grizzly 399’s yearling cubs. 

The town of Jackson lacks any regulations over garbage or landscaping aimed at preventing bear conflict. Still, Weber encouraged residents to not leave garbage outside, and to remove pumpkins, birdfeeders and anything else that may attract bears.

Residents can also help by not gawking at Grizzly 399 and her family if she’s cozy in a backyard, and instead making the situation unpleasant for her and her cubs.

“Not only clean up your attractants, but don’t let them feel comfortable in your yard,” U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Grizzly Recovery Coordinator Hilary Cooley said. “There are safe ways to do that. You can bang pots and pans. You can honk your horn. You can yell.”

“If a bear is sitting there eating apples and you’re not doing anything to shoo it away, why would it leave?” she added. “That’s another way people can help us.”