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Learn About Grizzly 399


About 399

Jackson Hole Grizzly Mother 399 has been touted as “the most famous bear in the world.” The moniker does not pertain solely to her celebrity status, which has gone supernova in the age of social media and people becoming aware of her far beyond the Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem.

Born in 1996, 399 has been remarkable for her longevity, her visual presence along the roadsides of Grand Teton National Park, her giving birth to 17 cubs and her behavioral traits that scientists say have made her an ambassador for her species. Quite literally, owed to the way she has raised her cubs and navigated the intersection between wild country and people, 399 has helped transform the negative, fearsome image that existed in peoples’ minds about grizzlies for generations.

We think 399’s legacy is worth both celebrating and using her story as a way to educate citizens about how we all can be better wildlife guardians and more thoughtful advocates for protection of the natural world. The purpose of this project, advanced in memory of the late conservationist Deidre Bainbridge, is to not only honor 399, but hail the important role all of us play in defending the health of the last great wildlife-rich ecosystem in the Lower 48.

Grizzly 399 taught us, by example, that sustaining a grizzly bear population in the 21st century requires giving bears a lot of protected habitat (which benefits dozens of other wildlife species), people behaving responsibly at all times, and bears having access to an abundance of natural foods as we enter an uncertain era of climate change. 

What has happened in the Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem with grizzly bear recovery is a miracle. In 1975, the regional population here was given federal protection under the Endangered Species Act. Grizzly numbers had fallen to as few as 300-350 and there was concern that, if bears continued to die at a faster pace than they were reproducing, they might vanish from the world-renowned region synonymous with their presence.

Government agencies, citizens, and conservation organizations rallied together to prevent that from happening. Grizzly 399 is a symbol of what can be achieved when an emphasis is placed on bear conservation. Over the years, some of Grizzly 399’s cubs have, in turn, grown up and given birth to their own cubs. In all, two dozen bears exist in the bloodline of 399 alone. Worthy of pause and reflection, however, is that at least half of those 399 descendants have died in various kinds of negative confrontations with humans. It’s not easy being a grizzly in a human-dominated world.

Thus, the future of grizzly bear recovery in Greater Yellowstone is hardly guaranteed. This project is about continuously tackling the challenges grizzlies face and helping to win the hearts and minds of human conservationists everywhere to be advocates for their survival. 

(Author: Todd Wilkinson)


Tips for Grizzly Safety

Courtesy of

Being Safe In Bear Country

People are the primary cause of almost all grizzly bear deaths. Fortunately, most conflicts are avoidable, but only if we are mindful and take precautions. Here are some basic tips. 

Watch for Sign of Bears:

When visiting or recreating in grizzly country, you should be on the lookout for evidence that bears may be nearby.  They are:

  • Turned over rocks or logs;
  • Logs or stumps that have been torn apart;
  • Claw marks on trees;
  • Bear food sources such as berries, whitebark pine seed caches, or animal carcasses;
  • Bear tracks and scat

Store Food and Garbage Properly:​

Grizzlies can easily become attracted to and even habituated seeking out livestock and bird foods, power bars, drink mix, dog food, horse pellets, and bird seed. All of our foods, our garbage, and the food we keep for domesticated animals should all be kept in secure places and away from a bear’s reach.

  • Hang your food at a distance of at least 10 feet above the ground and three feet between trees at least 100 feet away from where you sleep or cook.
  • Sleeping areas and cooking areas should be distant from one another.
  • Pack recently killed game out promptly. The longer an elk carcass remains on the ground, hanging in hunting camp, or laying in the back of a truck, the more likely it will be discovered by a bear.
  • Leave no trace: Make sure all food scraps have been removed from fire-pits, pack out your garbage and help prevent the next group that camps in the area from encountering hungry bears.

Carry Bear Pepper Spray:

Research shows that properly used bear pepper spray provides the best defense against a grizzly attack.  Unlike a gun, pepper spray does not have to be aimed precisely in order to stop a charging bear.  When sprayed in the face of an aggressive bear, pepper spray causes temporary blindness, as well as choking and coughing.

 Only purchase a pepper spray that is clearly labeled for deterring bear attacks and provides at least 9 ounces of spray.  Be sure to carry the can in an easily accessible hip or chest holster.  In your tent, keep spray readily available next to your flashlight.  Spray should be tested once a year; do not spray in or near your camping area, as it may actually attract curious bears.  In the event of a bear encounter:

  • Remove the safety clip from the can;
  • Aim slightly down and towards the approaching bear;
  • Spray a brief shot when the bear is about 50 feet away;
  • Spray again if the bear continues to approach.

Once the animal has retreated or is busy cleaning itself, leave the area as quickly as possible (don’t run) or go to an immediate area of safety such as a car, tree or building.  Do not chase or pursue the animal.

Take Extra Precautions in Grizzly Country

  • Hike in groups of at least three to four people;
  • Don’t hike in the dark;
  • Make your presence known by speaking loudly, whistling or breaking sticks as you walk;
  • Make extra noise when you are near moving water or on windy days;
  • Watch for bears that might be feeding on the carcass of a dead elk, moose, or bison.

 If You Encounter a Bear

  • Try to remain calm, talk to the bear in a low voice, and slowly back away.
  • Stay close to other members of your group.
  • Keep your backpack on for added protection.
  • If the bear charges, try to remain calm because bears are often bluffing.
  • If the grizzly does attack, lie on your stomach with your face to the ground, clasp your hands behind your neck and use your toes and elbows to resist being rolled over.
  • Play dead until the bear leaves the area. 

Practical Tips for Homeowners

  • Do not leave dog food, coolers, or barbeque equipment outside where grizzlies can reach them.
  • Take down birdfeeders in early spring (mid-April) when bears emerge from their dens, if you live in or near concentrations of bears.
  • Keep garbage inside and remove it from the premises frequently to avoid buildup of odors.
  • Consider using bear resistant garbage containers suitable for residences if it is not possible to keep garbage indoors.

A Grizzly Advocacy Primer

Want to help grizzly bears but don’t know how? Start HERE with some help from our friends Louisa Willcox and David Mattson at the Grizzly Times. 

P.O. Box 747
Jackson, WY 83001

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