Photo: Yellowstone National Park, NPS
When you hear the name “Scarface,” you might think of the violent 1983 film starring Al Pacino. However, when we talk about “Scarface,” we are referring to a 25-year old male grizzly who called Yellowstone National Park his home. 'GB 211 was born 1990, and first captured and radio collared at age 3, the victim of a non-target management capture on Chittenden Road, near Mount Washburn. Through his life, 211 would be captured an additional 16 times, extremely uncommon for a grizzly in the Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem (GYE). GB 211 occupied a lifetime range approximately 1500 km2, and occasionally traveled even further to sections of the park you would least expect to find him. The average home range size for a male grizzly in Yellowstone is 874 km2.
‘Scarface’ did not always have such prominent scars and markings. It wasn’t until around 2000 that researchers with the Interagency Grizzly Bear Study Team (IGBST) and Yellowstone Bear Management (YBM), first noted his scars. Scars are typically found around the head and neck region of male bears; this is where they generally bite one another while they fight.
When GB 211 was in his prime, he was approximately 600lbs, which is on the larger end of the weight spectrum for Yellowstone grizzlies. The heaviest recorded adult male grizzly in YNP was 715lb. For an adult female, the heaviest recorded was 436lbs. The average weight for male bears in YNP is 413lbs; for females, it is 269lbs.
While ‘Scarface’ wasn’t the oldest bear documented in Yellowstone, he reached the ripe age of 25-years old. The oldest documented bear in Yellowstone was 31-years old. The last time ‘Scarface’ was captured was Antelope Creek in Yellowstone on August 31, 2015; he weighed on 338 lbs., nearly half of what he weighed during his prime. GB 211 exhibited signs typically consistent with deteriorating health.
Photo: Eric Johnston (left, center) Yellowstone National Park, NPS (far right)
On November 18, 2015 at approximately 6:20 pm, ‘Scarface’ was unfortunately the victim of a hunting related “self-defense” kill or what US Fish and Wildlife calls “DLP” defense of life or property. Upon the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) release, we learned that based on the evidence gathered, there was not enough evidence for US Fish and Wildlife to press charges against the hunter, and that the evidence recovered was consistent with the statement he provided.
Photo: Neal Herbert, NPS
Instead of focusing on how GB 211 lost his life, we should rather reflect on the tremendous amount of data this bear contributed in grizzly bear research, and how this knowledge and information can better help us understand the species going into the future.
For those of us who had the opportunity and ability to view and observe GB 211 ‘Scarface’ in his natural Yellowstone habitat, cherish those memories. Do not forget your experiences. Be a voice for grizzly bear conservation into the future.
(1.) Yellowstone Grizzly Bear Facts, www.nps.gov/yell/learn/yellowstone-grizzly-bear-facts.htm
(2.) The Interagency Grizzly Bear Study Team, https://www.usgs.gov/science/interagency-grizzly-bear-study-team?qt-science_center_objects=0#qt-science_center_objects
(3.) Billings Gazette, “FWP confirms grizzly killed near Yellowstone was well-known male No. 211, Scarface” by Brett French
Photos: Jim Peaco, NPS
GB 264 called the northwest corner of Yellowstone her home. From the north Gallatin’s, all the way to Norris, 264 was reserved, but not shy when it came to giving visitors a spectacle. She was one of the more visible, well-known grizzlies during her 12 years in Yellowstone National Park. This was probably because she was collared, making her easily recognizable, and the mere fact she frequented near and around the roadway. Her popularity over the years soared. Visitors would come to the park just for a chance sighting of her.
During her 12 years, she produced cubs on three occasions. During 1997, she gave birth to two cubs-of-the-year (COY). Unfortunately, GB 264 was captured for management purposes on June 18, 1997; at this time, one of her two cubs was euthanized due of injuries. Later that year, 264 would lose her second and only remaining cub. In 1999, GB 264 was observed with two COY emerging from her den, only then to lose both of them later that year. In 2000, GB 264 emerged from her den with another litter of two COY; in 2002 she was observed with two cubs.
Around 6:30pm on Saturday, June 15, 2003, the park was notified that a bear had been hit near Norris. Upon arrival, rangers discovered GB 264 near Norris campground. The driver of the vehicle stated that the bear darted out into the roadway when it was struck. Park officials deemed that speed was not a factor in the incident. Park rangers brought 264 to Mammoth for an assessment, and then drove her to a veterinarian in Bozeman, MT. Veterinary exam found her back was broken, and the lower half of her body was paralyzed. The following day, Sunday, June 16, 2003, GB264 was euthanized.
Photos: Jim Peaco, NPS
Photo credit: taken by Grizzly & Wolf Discovery Center in West Yellowstone, MT.
The storied life of Sow 101: Grizzly bear (GB) 101 was captured seven times (three management captures) during the 20 years she spent in the Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem (GYE). She lived the majority of her life in the western section of the Yellowstone National Park, in close proximity to human recreation areas and the urbanized town of West Yellowstone, MT. First collared in 1983, after a management capture in Big Springs, ID, GB 101 was soon transported to Antelope Creek, YNP. However, it wouldn’t be long before she would find her way back to the western section of the park. In 1986, GB 101 was again captured at Richard’s Pond in YNP (research purposes) (~60km from Antelope Creek, YNP). This was the general area where GB 101 spent a good majority of her life. However, in 1994, while supporting two yearlings, GB 101 was captured at Rainbow Point, MT and removed to Buffalo Plateau in the Bridger-Teton National Forest (BTNF) for obtaining human foods and causing property damage.
Unfortunately, she would prove to be a pure testament of how ineffective relocation can be. GB 101 again made her way back to Rainbow Point, MT, almost 130 km away from the area she was relocated to in 1994 (8-years prior). On August 31, 2002, after 20 years in the GYE, she was captured (management) for obtaining human foods with the presence of two cubs, and permanently removed and relocated to the Grizzly & Wolf Discovery Center in West Yellowstone, MT.
Since 2002, GB 101 has spent 16 years in captivity, now 36 years old. Grizzlies in the wild of YNP can reach ages up to 30 years old, however not extremely common. The oldest documented grizzly in YNP was 31 years old. In captivity, these bears can sometimes surpass the age of 30, approaching close to 40 years old in some cases. This is truly representative of the exceptional, great care they receive at facilities such as the Grizzly & Wolf Discovery Center of West Yellowstone, MT.
A special thank you to the Grizzly & Wolf Discovery Center of West Yellowstone, MT for providing phenomenal care and a great home to Sow 101 for the past 16 years!
For more information on bears, wolves at the Grizzly & Wolf Discovery Center, or if you wish to donate, please visit their website:
Photo credits: Jim Peaco (left) & Neal Herbert (right) (NPS, 2017)
GB 815 was first captured by the Interagency Grizzly Bear Study Team June 10, 2015 and fitted with a VHF radio-collar for research purposes. At the time of her capture, no cubs were present. The following year, 2016, she was observed with an initial litter of three cubs-of-the-year (COY); by the end of 2016 she only had one remaining cub.
During 2017, GB 815 was observed in six different months (April, May, June, July, August, September) for a total of 36 observations. She was occupied with one-remaining yearling cub from her initial litter of three during 2016. Her range encompassed approximately 123 km^2 during 2016. This nearly doubled during 2017, where her range was approximately 225 km^2.
Home range size has often been thought to be a function of resource availability; as sizes of home ranges decrease, habitat quality increases (Steiniger et al. 2010).
Several factors must be taken into consideration with the construction of home ranges for grizzly bears (Munro et al. 2006, Ross 2002, McLellan 1989).
Ultimately, it is possible that some females never meet or attain a maximum home range size within the Yellowstone grizzly population, given the unpredictability of food resources (Mattson et al. 1991). This was also demonstrated during a 13-year study performed by Blanchard et al. 1991, where several females were monitored 6-years or more and had not attained a maximum or reflective maximum home range.
The movements of females with COY for example, can be explained by several factors. Movements of females with COY during spring may be due to the lack of mobility of the young, when they are also most vulnerable to predation (Blanchard et al. 1991). Females with COY typically have increased security for their young during spring by selecting habitats, and least preferred vegetation at higher elevations, while other bears in cohorts are found at lower, more productive elevations (Blanchard et al. 1991). Females with cubs may be displaced due to sub ordinance of the female to other bears in a very similar proximity, or even the ignorance of vulnerability of her cubs to predation, stemming from lack of experience (Blanchard et al. 1991).
Tyler Brasington is a native born and raised Pennsylvanian, yet proud current Wisconsin resident. He graduated from the University of Wisconsin-Whitewater with a B.S. in Environmental Science. Currently, Tyler is pursuing his masters in Natural Resources with the University of Wisconsin-Stevens Point. He has worked in Yellowstone National Park under the guidance and supervision of Dr. George Clokey and Dr. Jim Halfpenny.
Disclaimer: The information and views expressed on this page do not necessarily represent the views of the Department of Interior, US Geological Survey, National Park Service or the United States Government.
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