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Will Lily give up Hope?

Lily the black bear nurses her cub, Hope, on Monday. The pair reunited Sunday after being apart for 1 1/2 months. Sue Mansfield / North American Bear Center

DULUTH, Minn. - An Ely black bear and her cub have reunited after 1 1/2 months apart.

Researchers Sue Mansfield and Lynn Rogers of the North American Bear Center confirmed Monday that Lily and her 5-month-old cub, Hope, reunited Sunday after the mother wandered into the cub's area.

The two were discovered together Monday by Mansfield, who has been videotaping mother and cub and recording their behavior. Mansfield and Rogers estimate that the bears have been together since 10:30 a.m. Sunday.

"It just happened on their own. Lily got into Hope's area," Rogers said. "Lily will not let Hope out of her sight. They've been playing endlessly."

Despite the time apart, Lily managed to nurse Hope on Monday. Rogers said a veterinarian who was with Mansfield was able to confirm that Lily produced milk.

"I'm with them right now, and it's pretty intense," Mansfield said Monday afternoon during a phone interview.

Hope's Jan. 22 birth was broadcast worldwide via webcam and spawned a Facebook fan page - with more than 105,000 members - dedicated to her and Lily. The two separated briefly before reuniting for a short time in May with the help of Rogers and Mansfield. But since then, Hope - now days shy of 6 months old - was alone until Sunday.

Rogers and Mansfield provided food in spots along the way for Hope, who, like her mother, is fit with a radio collar to help the researchers track her movement.

On Monday afternoon, Mansfield told Rogers that when Hope has something to eat, the cub snuggles up to Lily for security.

"This is going to mean Hope can sleep more," Rogers said. "Sue called me after about three hours with them. She said, 'I think they're going to stick.' "

If the two bears remain together, it's possible Hope may den with Lily, who may have more cubs in the spring, creating a mixed-age litter.

"Hope wants to be with Lily. Does Lily want to be with Hope? We didn't know what to think. Will they stay together, hibernate? Will Lily have cubs with Hope in the den with her?" Rogers said. "Next spring, when Lily has cubs, will she force Hope to disperse on time, or will Hope get an extra year with Lily?

"Already today they've answered many questions."