Hope’s Birthday - UPDATE January 22, 2019

Today, they wrote a draft of the Lily and Hope Story to be the centerpiece of a new Lily and Hope Exhibit at the Bear Center. Fittingly, they got the draft this far in time for Hope’s birthday. Good memories—partly sad. This draft has as many words as they could fit in the space available.Hope Lily by logHope Lily by log

On another note, the Bear Center’s new website makes its debut tomorrow. A lot of thought. A lot of work. They put their hearts into it. It looks terrific!

 The Lily and Hope Story

Lily and her litters revealed more about black bear hibernation and did more to educate people than any bears in Dr. Lynn Rogers’ 50 years of research. Making that possible were Lily’s trust, newly invented webcams, and technologists led by Doug Hajicek and Jim Stroner.

On January 8, 2010, this 2-year-old mother-to-be watched trustingly as the research team placed a webcam (den cam) in her den and connected her to the internet. Soon she was revealing activities new to science. The hidden world of hibernation had long been the least observed portion of black bear life.Hope 6-28-10Hope 6-28-10

Lily’s wakefulness was the first surprise. According to old beliefs, black bear mothers give birth in their sleep and wake up in spring surprised to see cubs. Viewers witnessed Lily wide awake as she gave birth to a single female cub named Hope after nearly 22 hours of labor. Viewers in 132 countries cheered her on as she tenderly warmed and nursed this tiny body that was born into freezing January cold. Word spread. Lily became the number one search topic on Google.

In her wakeful hours, Lily not only nursed Hope; she ate snow, ingested Hope’s urine and feces, and established a latrine area.

Lily further demonstrated her wakefulness by reacting to wolves and other predators that ventured too near the den—and to pesky mice, shrews, and spiders that took up residence.

Even sleep was exciting. Both Lily and Hope went through periods of previously unreported REM sleep that may include dreaming.

When Hope reached 6 weeks of age, viewers saw her gradually open her eyelids and begin socializing with Lily through play and a bonding activity called reciprocal tongue-licking.Hope 4-8-10Hope 4-8-10

After Lily and Hope left the den in spring, a major complication developed as Lily struggled with a hormone problem. For her, a single cub could not suckle enough to prevent ovulation and estrus. During the spring mating season, Lily was torn between mothering and mating. Consequently, while Hope slept high in a tree, Lily moved two miles away, following the tracks of a male. Hope disappeared shortly after.

Lily and Hope fans were distraught. Local residents and the Duluth Rescue Squad searched for Hope day and night for 5 days. Then, while Rogers was telling a reporter that he feared the worst for Hope, his cell phone rang. Hope was found. He joined the crowd at the scene, put little Hope in a pet carrier, and homed in on Lily’s radio signal. The bawling demonstration of animal emotion that Rogers saw when Hope sighted Lily was the most moving of his career.

Lily and Hope spent the next day playing and nursing, but Lily’s milk ducts were clogged. Hope was becoming weak and emaciated. Researchers had to decide between letting nature take its course and giving Hope formula similar to bear milk. The choice was easy. With the formula, Hope recovered.

But the story was just beginning. Still in estrus, Lily abandoned Hope again—for six weeks. Researchers gave Hope a small radio collar and continued the formula while Hope visited places Lily had shown her. Mating season ended. Lily and Hope re-connected and Lily began re-bonding with Hope, who had never lost her feelings for her mother. Lily began producing milk.

That fall, denning together, the big question was how Hope would respond to newborn cubs. Mixed age litters had been reported, but how yearlings treated newborn cubs was unknown.

Hope 1-8-11Hope 1-8-11The den cam showed it all. Lily gave birth to Faith and Jason while Hope was attempting to nurse. As the cubs grew, Hope played with them as if she were a second mother.

Soon after leaving the den in spring, Jason was killed by a bite to the head in an area with many coyote tracks.

Faith bonded with her older sister Hope, playing with her and resting snuffled to her. Hope, in turn, looked out for Faith, joining her when she strayed.

As hunting season approached, the researchers tried to protect Hope by repeatedly giving her radio-collars, but she removed them all. Her death by gunshot echoed with grief around the world.

When Lily and Faith denned together that fall without Hope, Faith rested alone when she and Lily were outside the den. Later, inside the den, Lily and Faith strengthened their bond through play as viewers watched.

Through den cams and social media, Lily and her family brought thousands of viewers together. They met at local gatherings around the world and visited Ely by the thousands. They raised money for Ely’s schools, playgrounds, parks, and food bank. For the bears, they teamed up to help with research and education in many ways. Their Den Watch Team (over a hundred strong) systematically recorded the bears’ activities in dens minute by minute 24/7 while archiving backup video.Faith on Hope 7-12-11Faith on Hope 7-12-11

Rogers is thankful for these dedicated citizen scientists and supporters who learned with him directly from the bears and grew to share his love of them.

Lily gave birth to four more litters by the time she turned 12 in 2019. All were litters of two or three and were raised with no problem.

Lily lives on! 1-22-2019

Thank you for all you do.
Lynn Rogers, Biologist, Wildlife Research Institute and North American Bear Center