Visit to Lily’s den

Visit to Lily’s den

Update March 2, 2010 – 9:36 PM CST

Hope’s eyes are open.  Linda Gibson caught a video clip in the middle of the night that convinced us.  To better see how this single cub has developed by this date, we visited the den and tried to capture it on HD video.  But in the 41 minutes we watched, the cub was barely visible from our perspective.  We happened to come near the start of a big nursing session.  Hope’s motor-like hum tells Lily not to move.  It seems to say everything is great, don’t move or I’ll squawk!  When the nursing ended, Lily lifted her head to take a grape, actually 6 grapes total, but she didn’t lift her head enough for us to see the cub.  The webcam had a better angle and many of you did get a look and posted that the eyes are indeed open.

Lily has eaten the snow back a foot from where the snow used to be, reaching ever farther past the end of the camera.  We pulled the microphone back so loud sounds hopefully will be less distorted, but the camera is duct-taped too securely to more it.

As you could see, the whole project is based on trust.  Trust enabled us to put the radio-collar on Lily.  Trust allowed us to put the camera in the den, and trust allows us to watch her without having her become defensive.  Lily is not as trusting as her mother June (age 9), who we’ve known much longer.  Each year and each visit earns a little more trust.  The process is called ‘habituation’.  As Lily becomes habituated to more and more situations, like den visits, she will be more relaxed and provide better and better data as all of us learn together.   It is a process of mild stress and accommodation with each new situation.  Now that Hope has her eyes open, we’ll spend more time at the den.  The more accustomed Lily and Hope are to our presence, the better data they’ll provide.

Someone posted a question asking why we don’t publish more.  We plan to, but not just now.  To see what we’ve written so far, go to  Hover over ‘Publications’ and click on ‘Research Papers’ in the drop-down menu.  That takes you to a list of species.  To see the black bear papers, click on ‘Black Bear’.  A list of 124 publications comes up.  Click on any title that’s underlined to view the paper.  Not to brag, but we have senior-authored more peer-reviewed papers on bears than anyone in the world.

How much does that help bears?  Not a lot.  The average number of readers of a scientific paper published in a journal is six.  A lot more people read the abstract, but only six thoroughly read the whole paper.   The main problem for black bears is human attitudes, and very few of those papers do anything to change that.  We eventually will write a host of scientific papers and books if the good Lord grants us the time.  But right now our focus is on sharing information with the public where it can make a difference.

To do that, we’ve spent the past few years creating the North American Bear Center, which reaches tens of thousands of visitors plus hundreds of thousands of web users per year.  Many of the web users are authors, state wildlife agencies, TV script writers, teachers, and students.  The information on the web is multiplied by people who make it part of their own writings, brochures, and teachings.  At Lynn’s age (70), he is more interested in making a difference for bears than in building his career with an impressive publication list.  That’s one reason we freely let people download material.  One part of the website is the Lily Cam, which is stirring a general interest in bears.  We also do outreach through TV programs that reach over a hundred million people a year.  The latest documentary, Bearwalker (to air April 4 on Wild Kingdom on Animal Planet), will give people a new view of bears.  As people learn the truth about bears, they become more willing to coexist with them.  Three more documentaries are being made in 2010.

Meanwhile, we are gathering data on aspects of bear life never before explored.  Most are topics that can only be explored in the context of the trusting relationships we are developing with these few very important radio-collared bears.  When the data warrant it, we will publish.  Meanwhile, we are doing all we can.

Several of the postings today were priceless.

One writer whose name we missed, and later couldn’t find, wrote: H is for the way you "hold my heart", O is for the Overwhelming urge I have to hold you, P is for the Peace you are bringing to the little world around you, and E is for Everybody who can't take their eyes off you.

Patricia Garrett and Kathy Allworth both wrote wonderful poems.  Unfortunately, we caught the names but lost the poems!

On another note, today at the Bear Center we accepted delivery of a huge polar bear mount.  It will be the center of a new exhibit and will round out our coverage of the North American bears.

Much good is happening in and out of Lily’s den!

Thank you again for your contributions and all you are doing to help.

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