Hope and a mass of bedding that conceals the radio-collar Lily removed.
After a fairly quiet day in the den yesterday, Lily and Hope engaged in the most vigorous play we have ever seen in a den.  It happened a little after 1 PM.  We never expected to see play like that in a den in January.  What benefit does play serve that is important enough for them to expend the energy when there is no food intake.  Why isn’t Lily conserving her energy to make milk?  How little do we understand bears?  How many experts would have predicted that?  The Den Cam is showing us behavior no one has seen and no one would predict.   No one could walk up to a wild den and see play like that.  The bears would hear their approach and be watching for danger at their entrance.


The beginning of the end. Radio-collar slipped over one ear.
When the play began, Lily and Hope already had our attention.  Lily’s radio-collar was half off—in front of one ear and behind the other.  She paid no attention to it.  During her interaction with Hope, it just fell off at 1:07 PM.  She didn’t paw it off.  By 1:12 PM, she had shredded it pretty badly, but a later check showed that it was still transmitting.

We organized a prompt trip to the den to rescue the $250 collar.  We considered putting another one on her, but then decided that if Lily didn’t want to wear a collar she didn’t have to.  She’s not going anywhere soon.  We’ll give her a new one in spring before the snow melts.  In case she leaves early due to flooding or any other reason, we want to give her the new collar before the snow melts too much for easy tracking.

Lily and Hope sharing a 'nibble' on Lily's radio-collar.

At the den, we re-aligned the camera, pulling it back a bit. We wiped the lens off best we could in the process.

Meanwhile, we slowly fed Lily grapes one at a time to keep her occupied while we worked with the camera and tried to find the radio-collar in the den.  The collar wasn’t where we last saw it before the trip.  We tried feeling for it with a hoe, but Hope let us know she didn’t like that.  Her blustery response elicited the same response from Lily, who was ready to back her up or defend her in case Hope’s bluster was in response to danger.  Lily let us know instantly and vigorously her emotion of that tense moment.  Seconds later, Lily was gently and calmly taking another grape.  She had responded to Hope’s anxiety, assessed the situation as being familiar and non-threatening, and calmed down—all in a matter of seconds.  Not a problem.

With each snowfall, the trees bend a little lower on the way to the den.
Today, we sent in our Annual Research Report to the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources that issues our research permits.  In reading it over a final time, we were again struck with what a difference Lily and Hope fans have made this past year.
Sue Mansfield video-taping Lily. The den cam tube is in the foreground.

Along that same line, Sue Mansfield is madly writing tax receipt thank you letters for donations totaling $100 or more to the Wildlife Research Institute, and she is struck by your generosity.  Thank you.  Nancy Krause sends the thank you letters for the North American Bear Center.  What a difference you have made for both organizations.

Today, Sue Gottscho’s beautiful album of how you spent your den days last January arrived.  Entitled Den Days 2010, Recollections by Lily the Black Bear’s Facebook Fans, it is a brown leather album with heartfelt stories from 432 of you.  So many familiar names.  In a way, it’s a family album—historical—and another fine addition to the growing Lily and Hope exhibit at the North American Bear Center.  A 71-page treasure.  Thank you, Sue.

Thank you for all you are doing.

—Lynn Rogers and Sue Mansfield, Biologists, Wildlife Research Institute and North American Bear Center