To officials at Yellowstone National Park, the 25-year-old grizzly was known simply as bear #211.
To tourists, photographers and nature lovers everywhere, he was Scarface — a celebrity grizzly in a park famous for its bears.
But Scarface is dead, shot and killed just outside the park late last year, Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks (FWP) said in a news release issued last week.
As the grizzly is a threatened species protected by both federal and state law, the incident is being investigated by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, the agency said.
“No. 211 was recognizable because of distinctive scars on the right side of his face likely the result of typical fights with other male grizzlies for females during mating season or to claim deer and elk carcasses,” FWP said. “No. 211 was known to many photographers and wildlife watchers. For this reason, his life was often documented in the media.”
Photographer James Chagares even posted a tribute clip after learning of Scarface’s death:
Others also paid tribute on social media:
Scarface got his nickname from the many scars on his face, which were first noticed when he was 11 years old.
“If you’ve ever seen bears fighting they bite to the head and neck a lot,” Kerry Gunther, bear management biologist in Yellowstone National Park, told the The Billings Gazette. “His scarring was more severe than many others.”
But others say he got the scars from pulling off the radio collar put around his neck during the many times he was captured.
Either way, park officials say they avoid the nickname.
“They’re wild animals. And when people refer to them by name, they tend to not see the animal as a wild animal anymore,” Yellowstone spokeswoman Amy Bartlett told the Livingstone Enterprise. “People see ‘Scarface,’ and they’re going to feel a more intimate connection and then treat him differently than just a bear that doesn’t have a name. And that intimate connection is very one-sided.”
At 25, Scarface was one of the oldest bears in the park and showed signs of poor health.
The old grizzly’s teeth had been worn down, which is common in older bears, and he was losing weight. Nearly 600 pounds at one point, he weighed just 338 pounds when captured last year, FWP said.
“His body condition was probably linked to his advanced age of 25 years,” Montana FWP said in its news release. “Less than 5 percent of male bears born in the Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem survive to 25 years.”
Others also noticed the bear’s changes.
“I saw him along Yellowstone Lake in October,” Wyoming photographer Sandy Sisti told the Gazette. “I was concerned about him. He looked terrible and was very thin.”
Sist has blogged about the bear on her website.
While grizzly bears are protected by the Endangered Species Act, a growing population from 136 in 1975 to about 700 today has led to a proposal to remove protections in the Yellowstone region, potentially opening the door to hunting.
The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service is accepting comments on the proposal until May 10.