Another wild animal with a fan base among humans has met a violent end, when Grizzly Bear No. 211—known to his human friends as Scarface—was shot dead near Gardiner, Montana. Scarface was the best known of about 750 grizzlies who call Yellowstone National Park home but who, like the Yellowstone bison, sometimes stray across the invisible lines marking the park on a map.
This was the context of Scarface becoming a rock star among the grizzly population in Yellowstone National Park. Male grizzlies fight among themselves during mating season and Scarface had sustained injuries over the years that made him easy to pick out of a bear lineup, particularly his damaged right ear. In the ongoing research into the habits of the grizzlies in Yellowstone, Scarface had been captured, collared, and released 17 times.
Scarface did survive to a ripe old age for his species, 25. In his prime, he weighed 600 pounds. He was down to 338 pounds and biologists expected this last winter to be his last. They meant a death from old age, not from gunshots. Social media were full of outrage from biologists and wildlife photographers, for whom Scarface had become a symbol of the species struggling for survival against climate change and the invasion of bear habitat by humans.
Shooting a grizzly is unlawful except in self-defense, but Scarface had a long history with people that made him an unlikely candidate to attack a photographer or a hunter. Because of the Endangered Species Act violation, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service has opened an investigation into the circumstances of the shooting. Several photographers, decrying the shooting, declared that Scarface was the most photographed bear in Yellowstone.