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Yellowstone’s “Grand Old Man,” a beloved grizzly bear, was shot and killed outside the park late last year, government officials have confirmed.

Last week, the Montana Fish and Wildlife Service announced that the 25-year-old grizzly bear, classified as No. 211 by researchers, was killed in the Little Trail Creek drainage north of Gardiner, Montana, in the Gallatin National Forest. Tourists and photographers had affectionately dubbed the bear “Scarface” due to the distinctive scars on the right side of his face, likely evidence of fights with other male grizzlies over food or mates.

Scarface roaming free. (Photo Credit: Simon Jackson / Ghost Bear Photography)

Scarface roaming free. (Photo Credit: Simon Jackson / Ghost Bear Photography)

According to photographer Sandy Sisti, over the last three decades Scarface had been observed in “almost every corner of the park,” favoring the meadows and slopes surrounding Mount Washburn in particular.

First collared at three-years-old in 1993, the grizzly was monitored by researchers for most of his life. Though collars naturally fall off after a number of years, Scarface managed to get himself captured by scientists 16 subsequent times (he was not very good at avoiding traps). This has led to Scarface becoming, almost accidentally, one of the most studied bears in the wild.

“Wherever we set traps, he seems to find them,” Kerry Gunther, Yellowstone bear management program leader, said in 2015.

Scarface. (Photo Credit: Simon Jackson / Ghost Bear Photography)

Scarface. (Photo Credit: Simon Jackson / Ghost Bear Photography)

Through blood and hair samples, researchers later learned that Scarface had fathered at least three offspring during his lifetime, including another famous Yellowstone grizzly, No. 665, or “Dunraven sow.”

In recent years, researchers had noticed a significant weight drop in the old grizzly from 597 pounds in his prime to 338 pounds in August 2015, which is typical for his age. Gunther told the Seattle Times that he did not expect No. 211 to last through the spring of 2016.

Scarface with a meal. (Photo Credit: Simon Jackson / Ghost Bear Photography)

Scarface with a meal. (Photo Credit: Simon Jackson / Ghost Bear Photography)

Gunther was right – except the bear did not die from natural causes. Because grizzlies are protected under the Endangered Species Act, the fact that Scarface was shot is grounds for a USFWS investigation.

Grizzlies were declared threatened in 1970 after hunting sent the population plummeting below 150. Since receiving protection status, the population increased five-fold – high enough that USFWS recently proposed removing grizzlies from the endangered species list.

“The recovery of the Yellowstone grizzly bear represents a historic success for partnership-driven wildlife conservation under the Endangered Species Act,” service director Dan Ashe said in March. “Our proposal today underscores and celebrates more than 30 years of collaboration with our trusted federal, state and tribal partners to address the unique habitat challenges of grizzlies.”

Scarface making the daily commute. Note the research collar around his neck. (Photo Credit: Simon Jackson / Ghost Bear Photography)

Scarface making the daily commute. Note the research collar around his neck. (Photo Credit: Simon Jackson / Ghost Bear Photography)

Since the death of Scarface, photographer Simon Jackson has called on the public to oppose the de-listing of grizzlies from federal protection.

“Urgently, in the United States, plans are moving ahead to delist the great bear from the endangered species list and those plans will lead to trophy hunting a population that is genetically isolated and, clearly, still susceptible to conflicts with people,” Jackson wrote on his blog. “Please, if you choose to do anything to honour Scarface, choose to make your voice heard by May 10th to stop the de-listing of grizzlies in the Lower 48.”

To comment on the government’s proposal to de-list grizzlies, this link will take you to the regulation page. To comment directly, click here.

Update 5/4/16: Planet Experts contacted Simon Jackson for permission to use the photographs used in this article and our Scarface memorial gallery. When asked for comment, Mr. Jackson had this to say:

 “Scarface was a wonderful bear – a true gentle giant. He did more to breakdown negative stereotypes of bears‎ and inspire individuals to care for nature than any bear in the world, I think. He was always so tolerant of people, even when they pushed him. Scarface taught us, if we were willing to learn, how people and bears could coexist. The fact that, in the end, a person took his life – after all the benefit of the doubt he gave humankind – really is the ultimate act of betrayal. It breaks my heart.”

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2 Responses

  1. When the government is quiet about how things happened it’s pretty much a guarantee this is the last we’ll hear of it. Fish and Game is ALL about making money from hunting permits. This shooter obviously didn’t have one and I’m sure he or she will say self defense. Can’t really get away with it any other way. But you gotta’ love the USFS for wanting to take brown bears off the endangered list. That means one thing. It’s Grizzly huntin’ time! Ka-Freaking-Ching.

    Hell, last year that p.o.s. Casey Nockett was busted red handed on social media tagging rocks with her ‘art’ in a bunch of National Parks. No charges have been filed. They just swept it under the rug.
    I’ve got some knowledge of the National Park System and if anyone thinks they’re really in the business of conservation and protection they’re not looking at the realities.

  2. Rose says:

    The death of Scarface is tragic and unnecessary. I highly doubt that fish and wildlife are out to make big bucks off of permits and tracking poachers is extremely difficult especially without witnesses and evidence. It’s also a costly process. Fish and wildlife isn’t known as a ‘moneymaker’ they’re probably one of the most unfunded government agencies. I do agree that opening up hunting for grizzlies isn’t a solution to anything, after all there’s a reason they were on the list in the first place.

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