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'Operation 399’: Feds keep 24/7 watch on beloved, embattled bruin

'Operation 399’: Feds keep 24/7 watch on beloved, embattled bruin

Jackson Hole is behind the times when it comes to coexisting with grizzlies, official says.

By Mike Koshmrl, Jackson Hole News & Guide Contributor -

The state of Wyoming’s call for help to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service’s grizzly bear recovery coordinator, Hilary Cooley, came back on Oct. 18 after a wall-to-wall weekend of conflicts.

It was a Monday, and local staffers at the Wyoming Game and Fish Department had become overwhelmed by the sheer volume of calls and conflicts related to Grizzly 399, a famous sow bear with four half-grown cubs who’s on an extended walkabout through southern Jackson Hole. That revered 25-year-old bear has spent more time outside Grand Teton National Park than within the protected landscape since summer, and her travels through places like Josies Ridge, Tribal Trails and Hoback Junction are proving problematic.

“We had repeated conflicts over a three- or four-day period, way down south,” Game and Fish large carnivore biologist Mike Boyce told the News&Guide. “Property damage, livestock feed and apiary damage.”

During her first-ever known extended time south of the national park in 2020, Grizzly 399 successfully exploited human-related foods on several occasions. The grizzly mother and her then months-old cubs gorged on molasses-enriched grain left out for moose, hit livestock feed, wiped out a beekeeper’s colony and picked through a compost pile.

But her more recent behavior has taken an even more concerning turn.

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