The Death of Snowy

Due to slow internet, I can not get photos uploaded.

As most of you know, 399’s beautiful cub of the year, Snowy, was hit and killed by a car Sunday night.  This was a heartbreaking tragedy for all of us.

Since his death, I have been busy with media interviews and trying to send videos and images over slow wifi.

In the aftermath of Snowy’s death, many people have asked several questions over and over.  This is an explanation, as best as I can put together, of why certain things happened:

Saying thank you and answering some questions

Thank you to everyone who reached out with kind words and concerns after Snowy’s death. It is so frustrating that we lost this dear cub due to a human, rather than nature. But, if a boar had killed Snowy, rather than a hit and run driver, the story of the bears and their plight might not have reached as many people. In death, Snowy will help other grizzly bears, and possibly other species, survive, if we address the concerns.

First – We have no way of knowing that the driver who hit Snowy was speeding, or even knew that an animal had been hit. There are a fair number of large vehicles going through the park and if one of those hit him, they might have felt a bump but not known. And, they might have known. But, rather than jump to conclusions and think the worst, I would rather not focus on that issue and focus on what the bears and other wildlife need in order to be safe. Just my thoughts.

Second – There was a ranger present at the scene, all night, waiting for 399 to move away from Snowy. She arrived at 10 p.m. and I have been told that she could not retrieve Snowy’s body until 5:45, after they hazed 399 away. I am guessing that the decision was made to do that based on the fact that photographers and others would be showing up any minute and with 399 so close to the road, pandemonium would have erupted. I am further guessing that had that not been an issue they would have given 399 all of the time she needed.

Third – Removing Snowy’s body. There again, he was so close to the road, and they probably knew that she would return to that spot anyway, that they most likely needed to remove it for the safety of the bear and visitors. She did return and was quite agitated, which was not helped by the presence of people.

Fourth – Removing the memorial. The memorial was a wonderful tribute to Snowy and a great place for everyone to gather and grieve. I am grateful to those who thought to make this special spot. However, it is illegal to disrupt the landscape in a national park, or to destroy any part of it. There was writing on the rocks and non-natural/native items and flowers left. The law enforcement rangers knew that the memorial was there and obviously chose to ignore it that first day and let us have our time to grieve, just like they did with 399 when they closed Pilgrim Creek Road. And, they very quietly removed the memorial the following day, without confrontation or accusation, which was kind of them. They could have been jerks but they obviously knew that this death was hard for us, as hard, or harder, as it was for them. We all thought Snowy was special. I appreciate the ranger’s patience with us that first day.

Fifth – I had an email exchange with Kerry Gunther, Yellowstone’s bear manager, asking about the reproductive possibilities of a healthy 20 year old sow. BTW, I will repeat, 399 looks absolutely great – healthier than I have ever seen her. And, he said that sows can have cubs up until their later 20’s but might slow down. Here is what he said:

“Older females can have cubs into their late 20’s, but they do slow down considerably, usually longer intervals (more years) between litters. So instead of a litter every 3 years it may be 5 or more years between litters as they get older, and some older females may not have any more litters. It is very rare for any bear to live past 30 in the wild.”

Given 399’s great health and the fact that her boyfriend has already been following her around, I think that is is possible, even likely, that she will come out with cubs next spring. Of course, we won’t know until then, just like every year, and they won’t replace Snowy, but we can be hopeful for next year. Since I have known 399, 4 out of her 7 cubs have died. All survivors have been male. We need a female!

Hope that this helps people understand the circumstances a little more. I want to acknowledge knowing how hard this is for those of you who can not be here. I think it is harder for you than for us, because we get closure and this fast paced, wild life, keeps happening. With this incident, I was so busy with media stuff that I didn’t have time to stop – but now that things have calmed down, I’m a little tired and weepy.

Pilgrim Road is now open. Thank you to the park for giving 399 the space she needed in the aftermath of losing her son. She lost a son, a playmate and a friend.

Thank you to everyone who cares about the bears.

With my help, The Washington Post was the first to break the story about Snowy.  Because they interviewed me, I was contacted by other media people, including a Casper, WY ABC station.  I knew that news of Snowy was going to reach many people but had no idea of the magnitude of interest.  And, the government thinks that they can delist the bears!

Here are a few story links:

And the ABC segment, which has aired on many other stations.



Owner, publisher and photographer for The Yellowstone Daily. And, passionate about nature and wildlife

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