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Ely black bear Lily may give birth today

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Tension builds. Tomorrow is the day I wagered Lily will give birth.

Actually, we're all crossing our fingers she will have cubs at all at 3 when only 10 of 14 her age have done so in our study. We're encouraged, though, by her activity. It shows she has energy. She is not in the deep hibernation that let's blood oxygen fall too low to support fast-growing fetal tissue. She had the weight in fall to maintain a higher metabolism through winter and possibly have cubs. She is bringing cedar and fir boughs into the den for more bedding, probably getting them from the trees just outside her den where the camera is attached. Is she trying to get everything just right in the den before she has to lie inside all the time to keep cubs warm?

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We listen for cub sounds. The team is trying to get rid of the buzz so all can hear better. To answer a common question, the light is invisible infra-red. The camera converts it to visible light for us to see on the internet, but it does not illuminate the den. On the other hand, darkness is not important to hibernation. Many bears build above ground nests and spend the winter in broad daylight. Some get covered by snow at times, but they give birth and raise cubs successfully anyway.

To know what she does outside, we are torn between leaving her undisturbed or visiting the site to collect any droppings and see where her tracks go. There is talk of adding a camera outside so we all can see what she does and what the family will do when they begin venturing outside in spring.

The den location is secret. The few people who know are keeping quiet so no one disturbs her.

We are pleased that interest in this rare window into the hidden world of bears is spreading. The goal of the North American Bear Center is to educate everyone. Bears can teach us all directly like Lily is doing. A couple hunting websites, ESPN and Outdoor Life, are hosting the den cam so their audiences can learn from Lily, and we salute the thousands of troops watching from overseas.

Every day we thank the donors who are helping reduce our debt as you can see on the thermometer. We thank them in our hearts and in these updates. Lily and her clan would thank you if she knew, because it helps all bears.

Visits to the North American Bear Center website at www.bear.org have grown from 2000 a day to over 100,000 per day thanks to Lily! Changes are being made now to accommodate the additional traffic we expect to get in the days ahead.

It is exciting to see so many folks eager for T-shirts. We hope to have them for sale on-line by the end of today. The picture on the t-shirts is the familiar one - Lily's face with her gentle eyes and the dirt on her nose from digging the den. Three captions will be available: 'Lily Fan', 'Held Captive By Lily', and 'I (red heart) Lily'. The t-shirts come in two colors--ash or natural. Natural is a light yellowish tan. Both are Gildan short-sleeved pre-shrunk t-shirts in youth and adult sizes up to XXXL. The ash t-shirt is 99% cotton and 1% polyester. The natural t-shirt is 100% heavy cotton.

At this moment, Lily is restless. The little movements in her abdomen make me wonder if cubs are moving inside her, or if it's just my hopefulness.--Lynn Rogers, Ph.D.

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