Grizzly bear
Photo by Christopher Ives

Teton Totem

Teton Totem, a coastal brown bear, came to us as a child of divorce. A woman had bred him for movie work, but then had to move and was unable to take care of him. Our resident celebrity, he appeared in commercials, professional photo shoots, and documentary films. Well into his twenties, he was a seasoned emissary for his bear constituency, often moving people to tears with his gentle, powerful presence. Remarkably, he invented a kind of bear sign language, with which he communicated his wants to humans. He was also seen doing bear yoga to stretch his back, which was once injured. He loved pears and mangos.

Animal Fact

"Grizzly bears have a multitude of strengths. They are highly intelligent and have excellent memories. Detecting food from great distances away, grizzlies have an astute sense of smell" (Animal Facts Guide). In the wild, their lifespan average is 25 years. Their iconic hump is where "a mass of muscles attach to the bear’s backbone and give the bear additional strength for digging" (National Wildlife Federation).

Photos of Teton Totem

Stories About Teton Totem

Note: Many of our posts are collections of stories about multiple animals at Earthfire. The animal you’re looking for may not be shown in these post previews, but each post does contain a relevant story. 

Grizzly bear surrounded by rocks and bushes

The Golden Bear

The day I was told of the passing of Teton Totem, one of Earthfire’s resident grizzly bears, many emotions washed through me: sadness, shock, and disbelief. However, what resounded within me as I made myself go through the motions of my day was an aching sense of regret. His death

Read More
Grizzly Bear surrounded by aspen trees

Retreat Participant Honors Teton Totem

One of the most beautiful things in life is when we are touched at our very core. When our preconceived notions are shifted dramatically in an instant, when what we thought we knew well is deepened. Thanks to Teton Totem, I experienced such a moment. Gazing into his enclosure, I

Read More
A broken fan and extension cord outside a domestic bear's enclosure

Teton and the Fan

It was hot. Very, very hot. Teton has a thick bear coat and even in the shade it was difficult to cool him off. It bothered us. What could we do? He had shade cloth sprinkled with water, and cool watered grass to lay on, but he was still uncomfortable.

Read More
Wolf eating carcass

Creature Comforts

We are excited to have Animal Enrichment Specialist Steve Hill on site working with all of our sanctuary residents, but we’re not as excited as the animals. Steve traveled here from England and immediately began immersing himself in his work. He spouted ideas within minutes and started early with a

Read More
Grizzly bear surrounded by rocks and bushes

Nature’s Invitations

It was an invitation that brought me to Earthfire. As the digital content manager, I have the luxury of working from home—an arrangement that suits my introverted heart just fine. But since home is 2 ½ hours away, it also means I sometimes feel a bit disconnected from the land

Read More
Mango cut up into squares

Cece’s Mango

A timid knock sounded on my hotel door the night before I was to return home from a family wedding. I opened it and there stood Cece, a sweet little eleven-year-old with both hands outstretched, holding a large mango. “Here,” she said shyly. “This is for Teton Totem.” It was

Read More
Grizzly bear in an enclosure

An Unreasonably Unseasonable Bear

It is late February. It is cold and blizzarding. Will someone please explain to me why Teton Totem decided to rouse himself now, of all times? I rush to the store to get dark lettuce for him. That is close to what they will eat in the wild to ease

Read More
Grizzly bear with log in front of Tetons

Teton Totem Goes to Bed

It’s pretty easy to see when A Bear Wants to Go to Bed. He looks just like a very sleepy child, so pitiful and vulnerable in his need that you want to carry him up to his bed and tuck him in.

Read More
Animal trainer Jean Simpson with a brown bear

A Language Before Words

I keep thinking of offering a duct tape retreat, where we place metaphoric duct tape across our mouths so we are reminded to only speak when something comes from the depths of us; and when we are with the animals, we do not speak at all. When I mention such

Read More
Jean Simpson with grizzly bear cub

Teton Totem: A Bear with Personality

I would like to tell you about a grizzly bear. Not bears in general but a very specific bear. An individual. Teton Totem came to Jean as a child of divorce. Born in captivity, his owner had 30 bears and with the divorce, could no longer keep him. When I

Read More
Grizzly bear surrounded by rocks and bushes

The Golden Bear

The day I was told of the passing of Teton Totem, one of Earthfire’s resident grizzly bears, many emotions washed through me: sadness, shock, and disbelief. However, what resounded within me as I made myself go through the motions of my day was an aching sense of regret. His death

Read More
Grizzly Bear surrounded by aspen trees

Retreat Participant Honors Teton Totem

One of the most beautiful things in life is when we are touched at our very core. When our preconceived notions are shifted dramatically in an instant, when what we thought we knew well is deepened. Thanks to Teton Totem, I experienced such a moment. Gazing into his enclosure, I

Read More
A broken fan and extension cord outside a domestic bear's enclosure

Teton and the Fan

It was hot. Very, very hot. Teton has a thick bear coat and even in the shade it was difficult to cool him off. It bothered us. What could we do? He had shade cloth sprinkled with water, and cool watered grass to lay on, but he was still uncomfortable.

Read More
Wolf eating carcass

Creature Comforts

We are excited to have Animal Enrichment Specialist Steve Hill on site working with all of our sanctuary residents, but we’re not as excited as the animals. Steve traveled here from England and immediately began immersing himself in his work. He spouted ideas within minutes and started early with a

Read More
Grizzly bear surrounded by rocks and bushes

Nature’s Invitations

It was an invitation that brought me to Earthfire. As the digital content manager, I have the luxury of working from home—an arrangement that suits my introverted heart just fine. But since home is 2 ½ hours away, it also means I sometimes feel a bit disconnected from the land

Read More
Mango cut up into squares

Cece’s Mango

A timid knock sounded on my hotel door the night before I was to return home from a family wedding. I opened it and there stood Cece, a sweet little eleven-year-old with both hands outstretched, holding a large mango. “Here,” she said shyly. “This is for Teton Totem.” It was

Read More
Grizzly bear in an enclosure

An Unreasonably Unseasonable Bear

It is late February. It is cold and blizzarding. Will someone please explain to me why Teton Totem decided to rouse himself now, of all times? I rush to the store to get dark lettuce for him. That is close to what they will eat in the wild to ease

Read More
Grizzly bear with log in front of Tetons

Teton Totem Goes to Bed

It’s pretty easy to see when A Bear Wants to Go to Bed. He looks just like a very sleepy child, so pitiful and vulnerable in his need that you want to carry him up to his bed and tuck him in.

Read More
Animal trainer Jean Simpson with a brown bear

A Language Before Words

I keep thinking of offering a duct tape retreat, where we place metaphoric duct tape across our mouths so we are reminded to only speak when something comes from the depths of us; and when we are with the animals, we do not speak at all. When I mention such

Read More
Jean Simpson with grizzly bear cub

Teton Totem: A Bear with Personality

I would like to tell you about a grizzly bear. Not bears in general but a very specific bear. An individual. Teton Totem came to Jean as a child of divorce. Born in captivity, his owner had 30 bears and with the divorce, could no longer keep him. When I

Read More

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