Two bears killed in hit-and-run crashes in Grand Teton National Park prompts calls for motorists to slow down

Two bears were struck and killed by drivers who fled the scene this week in Wyoming’s Grand Teton National Park, officials said.

One of the dead bears, a beloved male grizzly cub known as “Snowy” for the blonde fur around its face and as the cub of another famous bear, dubbed 399.  The cub was hit on the evening of June 19 along U.S. Highway 89 between the Pilgrim Creek Road Junction and Colter Bay Junction. And, earlier that night, an adult female black bear was hit on the same highway, but near Deadman’s Bar Road Junction.

“The circumstances preceding the incidents are unknown as the motorists did not stop or report the incident in either case,” the park said in a statement.

In Snowy’s case, a passerby called the park’s dispatch office after seeing an adult grizzly removing the cub from the road just before 10 p.m. Rangers found the cub’s body, about 40 yards away from the road, the next morning.

Grizzly 399 with her cub photographed on May 10, 2016 in Grand Teton National Park. CJ Adams/Facebook
Grizzly 399 and Snowy photographed by CJ Adams on May 10. Grand Teton National Park/Facebook

Wyoming Wildlife Advocates called the cub’s death especially tragic since bear 399 is near the end of her reproductive life, replacing herself with only one adult female grizzly in the population. The dead cub, known as Snowy or Spirit by local bear watchers, “was adored for its antics and notably white face and will be sorely missed,” the group added.

Snowy in Grand Teton National Park. Wyoming Wildlife Advocates/Facebook
Snowy in Grand Teton National Park. Wyoming Wildlife Advocates/Facebook

“Even in the sanctuary of Grand Teton National Park it is dangerous to be a bear. Grizzlies are killed by humans, either accidentally or intentionally, at a horrific rate,” the animal welfare group said.

The park said already this year, A37 animals are known to have been hit by vehicles. Those include one grizzly bear cub, two black bears, nine deer, two bison, nine elk, two coyotes, and one red fox. Each year, more than 100 large wildlife are struck on park roads.

“These unfortunate incidents are an important reminder for all of us to slow down and be vigilant when we travel through the park,” park superintendent David Vela, said in a release. “Especially with the traffic levels that we are seeing during this busy season, it’s important to obey posted speed limits, maintain a safe following distance behind other vehicles, and be especially watchful around dawn and dusk when wildlife are more active.”

Grizzly bears in the Greater Yellowstone region, which includes Grand Teton, are currently protected federally as a threatened species.

According to National Geographic, there are between between 600 and upwards of a thousand grizzly bears in the Yellowstone area – up from a low of just 136 individuals four decades ago – but the high-end estimates are hotly debated.

And a proposal to delist grizzlies as an endangered species in the region is now being fiercely opposed. One petition has already been signed by more than 100,000 people.

Bernie Scates took some of the most recent photos of Snowy and his mother (including the main photo on this story.) He posted these, taken on June 6 not far from where the cub was hit, on Facebook.

He was heartbroken to hear the news. About 24 hours after Snowy was hit, Scates and another visitor trekked to the spot where the cub was struck. Then more heartbreak: They they came upon Bear 399 who was also there, looking for Snowy.

Main photo Bernie Scates/Facebook

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Recovering newspaper reporter.

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