Two cars swerving to avoid each other and a grizzly sitting on the side of the road resulted in the bear’s death on June 21. Experts believe that the bear was likely “Brownie,” one of the two year-old cubs of the 16-year-old mother bear known around the park as “399.”
Initial investigation found that the driver heading south on Highway 26/89/191 swerved to miss the bear, frightening the northbound driver who swerved, overcorrected, and struck the bear. “At some point while the vehicle careened through the sage, it collided with the bear—the animal was not struck on the road surface,” reported National Parks Traveler.
Neither car was going faster than the highway’s 55-mile-per-hour speed limit.
The bear was still alive when authorities arrived on the scene, but passed away shortly thereafter. Park biologists removed the bear and took hair, tissue samples and a tooth to determine the age of the bear. The analysis found the bear to be 130 pounds and of average health.
Officials have also sent DNA samples to an outside lab in order to determine if the bear is in fact 399′s son Brownie. Wildlife photographer Tom Mangelesen, who has photographed the mother bear and her cubs, Brownie and Ash, extensively, said he’s “98 percent” sure that the dead bear is Brownie.
“There’s light-colored banding on neck, rump and shoulder,” Mangelesen told the Jackson Hole News and Guide as he looked over images of the bear alive and dead, side by side. “A really black tail. It’s pretty indicative.”