Lily is a wild black bear who is part of long-term study of black bear ecology and behavior being conducted by Dr. Lynn Rogers and Sue Mansfield at the North American Bear Center and affiliated Wildlife Research Institute in Ely, Minn. It is currently the “longest and most detailed black bear study and the largest educational outreach program ever done for black bears.”
In 2010, a webcam was put into Lily’s den and on January 22, she gave birth to Hope, and simultaneously became the first wild black bear to give birth live on the Internet. Like the Decorah eagles, Lily and her cub captured the hearts and curiosity of thousands of people from around the world who were able to watch these bears and gain a new perspective as they learned about their secret lives in the wild.
Lily has more than 133,000 fans on Facebook.
Hope was last seen on September 14 with her mother, after which they wandered into an area with bear bait, but were not followed by researchers. The following day, Lily’s GPS collar showed that they had been at the station, but Lily had returned and was later seen with Hope’s younger sibling, Faith …but no Hope.
Unfortunately, bear baiting is legal in Minnesota, as is killing collared research bears. However, hunters are asked not to. Sadly, not all hunters are respectful, and some research bears have been shot in the past. Elsewhere on the World Wide Web, someone previously created a ‘Lily: Bear with a Bounty’ fanpage where jokes about “Hope jerky,” were made, along with other really profound comments that you would expect to find on such a site.
On Tuesday, an unnamed hunter confessed to killing Hope on September 16 when she came to his bait station. He claims he didn’t shoot her on purpose, though it’s hard to see how he wouldn’t have known, knowing they were in the area, or why he would even kill a juvenile bear at all. Rogers said “the hunter also did not express remorse.”
The news brought closure to everyone who was waiting for answers, but it also brought tears and anger to many who had been following Lily, Hope and Faith. Still Rogers stated he will not release the name of the hunter.
“I’ve gotten calls today from several people who could hardly talk through their tears, but there’s also a lot of anger. It’s a highly emotional item for the Lily fans. We’re just trying to figure out where we go from here. And we want to protect the hunter,” Rogers said.
“Minnesota bears belong to everyone. Why are they being managed for a dozen hunters that might see them instead of the thousands, actually about a quarter million people around the world, that want to learn from these bears? They need to be protected,” said Rogers last May when he was fighting for protection for collared bears. His petition gathered almost 28,000 signatures on Care2, while only about 100 signed the petition in opposition.
Photo credit: alh1 via flickr