Grizzly in Yellowstone. Credit: Jim Peaco, NPS
NewsAuthor: Steven Shaw
UPDATE: 8:34 PM 4/25/2016
The Yellowstone National Park Facebook page says that Scarface was wearing a collar. It is not clear if the collar was active or why the delay on announcing his death.
YELLOWSTONE NATIONAL PARK -- A grizzly bear killed last November has been identified as No. 211, otherwise known as “Scarface.” The 26-year-old bear was killed in the Little Trail Creek drainage north of Gardiner, Montana in the Gallatin National Forest. The shooting is still under investigation by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. During the same relative time period scarface was killed the Billings Gazette reports a hunter told Montana Fish and Wildlife that he stumbled upon a bear at close range and was attacked. That’s when he killed it. At this point, it is unclear if this incident is the one in which scarface was killed. We reached out to Montana Fish and Wildlife but as of the time of publishing our calls have not been returned.
Scarface was well known to grizzly bear researchers in Yellowstone. He was born in 1990, just a couple years after the famed wildfires which torched much of the park. During his life he witnessed the return of wolves to Yellowstone as well as his own species’ in the Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem rise from about 300 to more than 750. He was very recognizable to visitors and photographers due to the scarring on his face from fighting with other bears.
Less than 5 percent of grizzlies born in the Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem survive to 25 years of age, but Scarface was a survivor. He was captured by researchers nearly 20 times during his long life. “Wherever we set traps, he seems to find them,” the park’s bear management program leader, Kerry Gunther, told the Seattle Times. (sadly just weeks before his death).
He was was first captured near Mount Washburn in 1993 - with the then 3-year-old weighing roughly 150 pounds. In 2001, during his prime, Scarface was the king of the park, weighing nearly 600 pounds. At his last capture in 2015 it was clear No. 211 was nearing the end of his life, having shed nearly half of his body weight. Frank van Manen, a wildlife biologist with the U.S. Geological Survey told the Times “It’s one of the longest ongoing research efforts on any large vertebrate.” Gunther went on to say he expected Scarface to die over the winter, however the famous bear never made it to winter. “He’s been a symbol of remote wilderness, but he lives among 4 million visitors,” Gunther told the Seattle Times.
The sad news comes as grizzly bears in the Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem are slated to be taken off the endangered species list, a move currently under challenge in the courts by various environmental organizations.