Missing bear cub Hope may be alive
The black bear cub made famous last winter when a video camera recorded its birth near Ely and that went missing over the weekend may have been spotted alive Monday afternoon by the public.
Hope, the cub of Lily that was followed by millions of people through a camera set up by bear researchers Lynn Rogers and Sue Mansfield in Ely, has been missing since Friday, Rogers said.
But a homeowner just a few hundred yards from a tree where Hope was last seen reported seeing a small, lone cub in her yard Monday afternoon. The cub ran into the woods when approached.
"We think it's her, but we don't know yet," Rogers said via his cell phone from the woods near Ely.
Rogers and others were nearing the spot Tuesday afternoon, hoping to find Hope hiding in a white pine. The search is west of Ely in Eagles Nest Township along a county road. One side is dense swamp and forest, Rogers said, while there are cabins on the other.
"There's no reason to believe there would be another cub alone out here," Rogers said. "If we find it, we'll try to lure her down (from a tree) with some condensed milk and see if we can't get her back with Lily."
Meanwhile Tuesday, Lily the mother bear was nearly three miles away, having given up her search for her cub on Sunday and moved along on her way.
Hope hadn't been seen since Friday, when she and Lily climbed a red pine to rest after a two-mile walk, Rogers said. Later Friday evening, Lily wandered more than two miles away, possibly chasing or being chased by a rival adult bear. By the time she returned Sunday, 50 hours later, Hope was gone from the tree and rain had erased any scent.
"We don't know what happened -- Lily spent the spring in very small areas, maybe 50 to 100 yards in diameter. It was hard to believe she was getting enough food -- she finally left, we think to find better food, and took Hope two miles away," Rogers said. "The last time Sue saw Lily and Hope together, about 6 p.m. Friday, they were both up a tree sleeping after the long walk."
It took Lily until Sunday to get back to the red pine where she left Hope. But Hope was not in the area.
At nearly 4 months old, Hope is just beginning to eat food from the field, but the bear could not be expected to survive for long on its own, Rogers said.
At this time of year, the cub's best bet of nutrition in the wild probably would be ant pupae, Rogers said. But he noted that a young cub could not be expected to roll over logs or expose sheltered ant nests.
Lily is fitted with a collar that holds a GPS tracking unit so researchers can track and find her at any time. The cub, however, is too small to carry a collar.
Rogers, staff from the North American Bear Center and volunteers searched, as did Lily. But there had been no sign of Hope in the area. Rogers had all but resigned himself that the cub had perished.
That was until Tuesday afternoon.
Rogers said he left a pan of food in the area where the lone cub was sighted Tuesday and trained a trailcam on the meal-in-the-waiting.
As of 9 p.m. Tuesday, Rogers had not had any luck catching up to the missing cub, but he was expecting reinforcements. He said the St. Louis County Rescue Squad was on the way with a heat-sensing device that he hoped might reveal the young bear's likely sleeping place in the tree canopy of the area.
Hope was born on Jan. 22 and left the den with Lily in late March after being watched for weeks by millions of people on the live Webcam placed in their meager den. It's believed to be a first for a wild black bear birth in a den. Mansfield has continued to video the sow and cub since then, and she and Rogers often meet up with and spend time with the bears in the woods.
The videos and reports can be seen at www.bear.org.
Cathy Williamson of Brook, Ind., who last winter won a contest sponsored by Cub Foods to name Lily's bear cub, echoed hundreds of messages left on Lily's Facebook page this week.
"No matter what the outcome, little Hope will always be my shining star as well as many others' shining star," Williamson told the News Tribune. "She has done things for people better than any doctor could ever have done."