Grizzly 399 is perhaps the most famous female grizzly bear in the world, complete with her own Facebook and Twitter accounts. The bear is so well known that many follow her movements, recording where she travels, and what she hunts.
Our hope is that Grizzly 399 can act as an ambassador for her species and widen people’s perspective on grizzly bears as a whole. The Alliance advocates for healthy, abundant, and sustainable wildlife populations, including grizzly bears, so individuals like Grizzly 399 can continue to roam freely with abundant food resources. This rare insight into her life allows us to reflect on the many important policies in place – and those needed – to ensure a healthy ecosystem.
Recently, naturalist and guide Rafael Sandoval witnessed the giant bruin charge, catch, and kill an elk calf, capturing the entire event on film.
In the photos the giant sow grizzly is shown with her four cubs running across a rural road towards the camera.
Then 399 spots a large elk calf and runs it down as it tries to escape across a mountain meadow. In the chase photos the claws of the bear are clearly visible as it closes in on the elk.
Finally, 399 catches and kills the calf, and the bear cubs swarm on the fresh meat to devour it.
In the social media post, which the Alliance reposted with permission, the photographer commented, “For months bears in the ecosystem have been browsing on vegetation. However, as prey species like elk, bison and deer begin dropping calves… bears have begun to switch over to more savory menu options.”
This incredible display of predator and prey gives us a glimpse into life in the Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem, where each organism has a place in the biological order of things. Grizzly 399 and cubs hunting an elk calf is an example of a top-down trophic cascade, where the Grizzly bear – an apex predator – helps to control the population of elk – primary consumers. Maintaining healthy populations of both predators and prey is critical to preserving the balance of the ecosystem. Disrupting the balance of either level of the trophic cascade can result in dramatic changes in ecosystem structure. The Alliance is committed to protecting healthy and sustainable populations of all our native species, including bears. If you’re interested to learn more about our work with GYE predators, visit our webpage.