Changing Lily’s GPS Batteries – UPDATE June 12, 2012

Lily looks up - June 12, 2012Lily is beginning to shed her winter coat on her face - June 12, 2012Lily’s GPS batteries were about to expire and she was in a fairly accessible place. A 9-mile drive to the dead end of a forest road got Lynn and Ted Parvu to where her telemetry signal was strong. Lily hadn’t given us a GPS location for over 4 hours, so we knew we had to get to her to keep GPS data streaming to our computers.

Her signal was coming from an old clearcut. There was no defoliation to indicate forest tent caterpillars, so Lily was probably checking logs for ant colonies and eating peavine. Lynn started into the dense stand of young aspen that was coming up thick in the clearcut. Visibility was limited. He started the usual chant, “It’s me, bear. Don’t run. You’re okay. Come Lily. It’s me, bear.” He said to Ted that Lily actually responds better to Sue’s voice because Sue spent so much time with June when Lily was a cub and yearling.

Honeysuckle? (Lonicera spp.) - June 12, 2012Honeysuckle? (Lonicera spp.) - June 12, 2012They crossed the clearcut, and the telemetry signal was off to the side. Seeing a white pine, Lynn said, “They sometimes move to the security of a white pine before holding up for us.” Ted was getting experience so he can do some of the battery changes. They got to the white pine, and the signal was still back in the clearcut. A hundred feet into the aspen saplings, the signal was strong up a hill. Lynn kept up the chant. Lily seemed to be circling around them, trying to get a scent to verify the voice.

As they reached the top of the hill, suddenly there was a heavy sound 40 feet off to the side. Ted excitedly said, “That had to be a moose. Something big.” Lynn checked Lily’s signal. It was in the direction of the sound and fading. Did the wind muffle Lynn’s voice enough that Lily wasn’t sure? The signal now was coming from the white pine they had passed earlier. As they moved closer to it, the signal became stronger. Lily was finally waiting up. Then the signal was behind them, but no bear was visible. Then, there she was—lying down. She knew who it was and was relaxed. She came.

Honeysuckle? (Lonicera spp.) flower - June 12, 2012Honeysuckle? (Lonicera spp.) flower - June 12, 2012Working together, Lynn and Ted changed her batteries and took a heart rate (90/minute). Lily looked relaxed. As they left, Lily was sitting and eating the last of the pecans that made the battery change possible. They said, “Thank you, bear,” but Lily made no acknowledgement. Lynn wanted a picture for the update and tried to get her attention by growling. Instead of looking at Lynn, Lily looked every other direction for the danger. Finally, she looked benignly at Lynn before putting her head down to finish the nuts. Lynn and Ted said “Thank you, bear” again and began the trek back to the van through the aspen saplings thinking what a great bear Lily is. They were also feeling extremely privileged to be part of the only bear research of its kind in the world—to be able to see what bears show them and to feel the trust that makes such observations and real-time GPS data possible.

Grassy Lake - June 12, 2012Grassy Lake - June 12, 2012Meanwhile, Sue attempted to track June down to swap out her failed GPS unit. A logging road took her closer and closer to June’s signal. When the road ended, Sue set off on foot through the woods—hoping to catch up to her. Then the forest ended on an overlook with a wide expanse of wetland and river below. June’s signal was loud, so Sue repeatedly called “It’s me, bear. Come, June.” June’s signal slowly faded as she moved far into a roadless area.

While Sue was calling and waiting, she discovered a plant new to her. It appears to be a honeysuckle of some sort. The plant is a woody shrub 12-18 inches high and was growing on a south-facing slope. The flowers are paired but seem fairly nondescript. Does it look familiar to anyone?

On another subject, our Volunteer Coordinator Myra Fournier is looking for active volunteers who will be attending the Lilypad Picnic and would like to work a 30-minute shift either at the volunteer table or mingling in the crowd. The goal is to promote the volunteer program and invite fans to apply to be a volunteer. Please contact Myra at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..

Thank you for all you do.

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