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Oldest Grizzly Bear in Yellowstone is Nearly Toothless

Zach Turnbull/Wyoming Game and Fish Department

A grizzly bear born in the 1980s has been confirmed as the Yellowstone region's oldest on record.

A grizzly bear that preyed on domestic cattle in the Upper Green River Basin area of Wyoming has been confirmed as the oldest documented bruin of its kind in the Yellowstone region.

The bear, number 168 in the federal bear database, was captured last summer after repeatedly killing cattle, then calves. Relocation was hopeless, and wildlife officials decided to euthanize the bear in July, 2020. That's when it was determined that the bear had reached 34 years old before its death.

And that stands as a record not only in Wyoming, but the wider Yellowstone area. From the Associated Press:

Grizzly 168 is, so far, the oldest grizzly ever documented in the tri-state Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem.

Zach Turnbull, a biologist with the Wyoming Game and Fish Department, was the first to examine the 34-year-old grizzly bear. The data also revealed that Grizzly 168 had lived as long as any other grizzly recorded in North America, although some coastal brown bears have been proven to live longer in the wild. Though closely related, they are indeed different subspecies. A Minnesota black bear has also surpassed 34 years.

The AP reported further on the old male's activity throughout its long lifespan.

The bear had first been captured as a 3-year-old in 1989 when the inside of its lip was tattooed with the number 168. The bear also was captured north of Dubois in May 1996 and dropped its radio collar the next year.

In an interview with the Jackson Hole News & Guide, Dan Thompson, the large carnivore supervisor for the Wyoming Game and Fish Department, said identifying the responsible bear was obvious after examining the deceased cattle carcasses.

"You'll skin them and there's like terrible bruising, but there's no real punctures," said Thompson. "They have so much strength in their jaws they can kill an animal by basically gumming it."

After Grizzly 168 was captured, the bear's mouth only contained three canine teeth, all worn down to nubs, and nothing else. Thompson said there was good potential this would lead to more cattle deaths, mainly because they were deemed easy prey in the eyes of most grizzlies.

Even though female grizzlies are known to live longer than males, Grizzly 168 outlived all recorded females in the Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem.

The News & Guide report also said that "The state bear biologists held on to the skull, which is being cleaned and will be saved to serve as a reminder of the oldest grizzly ever known to inhabit the Yellowstone region."

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Oldest Grizzly Bear in Yellowstone is Nearly Toothless