World awaits famous grizzly bear to emerge to see if it breaks a record
A 27-year-old grizzly bear that has received worldwide attention could become a record-setter when it emerges from hibernation.
If the famous bear known as Grizzly 399 emerges with cubs in Grand Teton National Park, she will become the oldest monitored grizzly in the history of the Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem to bear a litter of youngsters, according to WyoFile.
“We looked it up, and from what I’m finding, the oldest known age of actual reproduction is 25,” Interagency Grizzly Bear Study Team leader Frank van Manen told WyoFile. “Of course, that might change this year if 399 comes out with cubs.”
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The family tree of Grizzly 399 is quite impressive with at least 24 bears—cubs and cubs of cubs)—having descended from her, according to Thomas Mangelsen. She has produced at least seven litters.
And she has a good chance of adding to the family.
Chuck Schwartz, a former federal grizzly researcher, completed a worldwide study 20 years ago that found that grizzly fertility shuts off around age 29.
“We’re at the end of the curve where things change pretty rapidly,” Van Manen told WyoFile. “I wouldn’t give it a high probability, more like 50/50.”
Grizzly 399 has also pushed the envelope on reproductive norms.
In 2020, she lumbered into view seven weeks after the COVID-19 pandemic began changing life for humans. At her side were four little ones — a feat in itself. Four-cub litters comprise just 2% of all litters in the ecosystem. At that time, Grizzly 399, then 24, was the oldest sow being monitored with cubs in the Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem.
Since then, the old grizzly moms’ club has added to its ranks. Two 25-year-old females were documented with new cubs in 2022, van Manen said, tying the record — shared by four females — for the oldest age of reproduction documented in the Yellowstone region…
Grizzly 399 has a couple of things increasing the odds she’ll again reproduce. One, she was observed breeding last summer.
“I saw her breeding with Bruno in June,” wildlife photographer Tom Mangelsen said.
That same male bear, Grizzly 679, was also seen mating with Grizzly 399 in June 2019, the year before she emerged with four cubs.
Biologists say that Grizzly 399 also appears to have stayed in good shape.
So, stay tuned.
Photo of Grizzly 399 with four cubs in 2020 courtesy of Wikipedia Commons.