Only 5 Months

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Mother 610 and her two cubs along the Snake River in April 2021.

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Mother 610 and one of her cubs survey their home landscape.

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April 2021-September 2021...5 months is all I got with these siblings. 

A mother bear loosing both her cubs in the span of months is sad but what makes it heartbreaking is they were killed by humans. These same two young bears were the grandcubs of the most famous grizzly 399, who is still thriving today.

 

This is my personal experience from my first encounters in April 2021 with grizzly bear 610 and her two cubs. I only had five months to see this family of three before there was only the mother left. I and other wildlife lovers should have had more time to enjoy the company of these bears, but more importantly these two cubs should have had fifteen to twenty plus more years to enjoy their life, away from the human gaze. 

 

The fragility of wildlife in beautiful Jackson Hole stands in stark contrast to popular belief that it’s a “wildlife haven”. Many residents know that wildlife including bears live close so why can’t they learn to live with them, appreciate their presence, and take pride in this corner of the world? Yesterday, not today, was the time to have that conversation. Education, activism, and peaceful coexistence are powerful tools to keep the wild landscapes wild for the next generation. 

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As Winter turned to early spring I saw my first ever bears in Grand Teton. The crisp morning air mixed with the warm sunlight hit the quickly melting snow patches. It was the season of renewal. Wrestling in the willow bushes two grizzly cubs didn’t have a worry in the world. Their home in the park is a massive playground and under the watch of their mother they couldn’t stop enjoying themselves. Their emotions were contagious. The bears were happy and so was I.

 

Walking along the edge of the Snake River it was just another day for a mother and two cubs. For me, it was not a typical day as I don’t get to enjoy wild bears often. Similar to my love of the African elephant, I can watch bears for hours and appreciate their graceful presence. On this particular day, I was reminded that we are on the bear’s time and need to savor every moment before they disappear into the bush. I was only able to see them for around thirty minutes but that time was enough to fuel my love of bears even more. 

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The more I watch bears and how they develop under the watchful eye of their mother I’m fascinated by these intelligent and social beings. They form close attachments with their mothers for the first few years and it is a treat to watch. I’m also humbled that bears are so accepting of human visitors in their home and landscape. 

 

This week Wyoming wildlife officials put down the second cub of grizzly 610 just months after the other sibling was killed. The bear wandered into the northern Jackson neighborhoods just outside the Grand Teton boundary and got into trash. Many residents in these neighborhoods are generally not tolerant of this behavior and call officials to take control of the matter. 

Multiple Yellowstone wolves were also hunted and killed this month after wandering out of park boundaries. These wolf deaths along with the recent bear deaths remind us that wildlife and humans share the last remaining wild places of the planet. Neither humans nor wildlife completely own these wilderness areas. Emotions are contagious and can jump from wildlife to humans. 610 is sad her cubs are dead and so am I. The wolves are distressed by a dead pack member and so am I. 

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I take solace in knowing that many other people are going through old photos of mother 610 and her two cubs and reliving the delicate memories of the not so distant past. 

 

Every day is delicate for wildlife while at the same time every moment spent in the wild is delightful for humans. I was out of town for one week and I came back to Jackson with the news that 610’s last cub died. 

 

I’ll end with the wise words of Dr. Jane Goodall saying, “we’re not separated from the animal kingdom, we’re a part of it.” Let’s treat other animals and entire ecosystems as if our lives depend on it because they do.