Lily lives on! Now 16, Lily is in a den with her yearlings Calla, Carex, and Coverly (1 female and 2 males) and is living peacefully, mostly unseen, with no trouble. In her 16 years, I believe Lily has meant more to more people than any bear in history.As an example of that, a Lily Fan today told me about watching and talking to Lily as Lily ate back in August of 2014. Lily was paying no attention to her. The Lily Fan then told Lily to be careful during the upcoming bear hunting season. That’s when Lily turned and looked at her. Looking into Lily’s eyes and seeing how Lily responded to what she just said, she began sobbing with Lily watching her—something the lady never forgot. As it has turned out so far, Lily WAS careful, and we still have her to this day as Lily spends the winter with her 16th, 17th, and 18th cubs.
The picture here from October 1, 2009 shows Lily’s thoughtful look with dirt on her nose as she was deciding to give up on the den that had too many boulders and move to an old den she had found that was made by another bear. That is where she decided to make her maternity bed and let the world see her give birth to Hope on January 22, 2010.
The picture from March 17 is of Lily and Hope nearly eight weeks later. By this time, Hope’s eyes had been fully open for nearly 2 weeks.
The May 10 picture is of Hope at 15 weeks and 3 days, growing well having been the lone recipient of Lily’s milk but not suckling enough to prevent ovulation. With conflicting hormones, Lily became torn between mothering and mating. Just eleven days later at 6:42 PM, Lily went off to find a mate. It was a time of trauma for her followers and researchers. People jumped in to help, including Lily Fans, the neighborhood, the St. Louis County rescue squad, and others.On May 26, neighbors found Hope and she was reunited with Lily in the biggest outpouring of wild animal emotion I’d ever seen. But as the next five days passed, it was evident that Lily was still torn. She left again on May 31 with Lily Fans again jumping in to help. Lily Fan specialists came up with a better cub formula than I’d ever heard of and Hope for the next 41 days grew well, supplementing her diet with wild foods. Then came relief. Lily and Hope crossed paths and reunited at 10-24 AM on July 11.
The picture from August 16 shows Lily back to full time mothering. She had resumed lactation, and Hope was suckling like old times. Lily was pregnant. In another five months she would be show the world many things about mixed age litters that were new to science while creating a host of memories for all of us. These two bears brought more people together for bears but also caused so much angst during the ups and downs that the story would have been almost unbelievable if we had not all followed the story every step of the way. So many memories.
Thinking back, I doubly say Thank You For All You Do.
Lynn Rogers, Biologist, Wildlife Research Institute and North American Bear Center