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Griz seen at elk refuge for first time since 1994

Aug 27, 2013 - The Associated Press

JACKSON -- A grizzly has been spotted at the National Elk Refuge for the first time in nearly 20 years.

A sow, with three cubs, was seen on Aug. 20 feeding on a gut pile from the annual bison hunt. It's believed to have been a bear well-known to visitors of Grand Teton National Park, No. 399.

That bear had triplets this year and had been seen in the southeast edge of the national park days before the refuge sighting.

A grizzly, also with three cubs, was last seen at the refuge in 1994.

"This is the first confirmed grizzly observation on the refuge since 1994," National Elk Refuge biologist Eric Cole said. "Really, the only surprising thing about this is that it hasn't happened until now."

In mid-May, 399 emerged from her den with a set of triplets, the third time she's known to have produced three cubs.

The quartet of bruins was spotted days before her Aug. 20 stop on the elk refuge in the southeast reaches of Grand Teton park, Cole said. In the days after the refuge sighting, the bears were seen again in the park, he said.

"In all likelihood, it is a bear that moved to the refuge from Grand Teton National Park," Cole said, "which makes it likely that it was, in fact, 399."

The 1994 grizzly, observed on the refuge around the same time of year, was also a sow with three cubs, he said.

Wildlife photographer Tom Mangelsen, who has helped elevate bear No. 399 to international fame, traces the 17-year-old bruin's refuge stop to the sound of gunfire.

"They're very smart animals and they learn to run to the sound of guns for free lunches," Mangelsen said. "Two weeks ago, she was up at Pilgrim Creek, which, as the crow flies, is probably 35 or 40 miles from the refuge."

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