Lilly, a black bear living in Ely, MN, was the first bear ever to be filmed giving birth to a live cub, on Jan. 22, 2010. Lilly had amassed many followers via her website and Facebook. The followers of Lilly and her newborn cub submitted names for her first born. The name chosen was Hope. Lilly was 3 years old at the time.
Approximately a year later, Lilly was filmed giving birth to twin cubs, with Hope at her side in the den they built together. A boy and a girl were born, but unfortunately, the male died within its first year of life. The second, a female called Faith is doing well, and had been in the company of her Mom and big sister Hope until this past weekend.
The researchers that routinely followed Lilly, Hope and Faith via radio collars had lost sight of Hope. According to recent Facebook posts, Lilly and Faith, who apparently wear the collars, had been tracked and/or sighted. But Hope, who for some reason refused to wear the collar, was not with them.
Hope, who along with the other approximately 13 other radio-collared bears, routinely interact with the researchers from the North American Bear Center, headed by biologist Lynn Rogers. It was reported that Hope had visited a bait station set up by a hunter 3 times. This hunter apparently contacted the research team within the last two days to confirm he had shot and killed a young female bear on September 16 in the area of his bait station.
The Associated Press reports:
“I’m figuring I’ll never release his name,” Rogers said, adding that the center’s goal is to “peacefully coexist with hunters. … We just want to know what happened and go on from there.”
Still, Rogers said he has to wonder if the hunter deliberately sought out Hope. He said the hunter has posted messages before on a Facebook page with around 50 fans called “Lily: a bear with a bounty,” where some postings last week spoke of “Hope jerky” or Hope cooked in a crockpot.
Rogers and the other researchers posted a message to fans on the Facebook page:
As we come to grips with the loss of Hope, we are mainly thankful for her life. She brought people together to learn about black bears. She was part of the biggest worldwide bear education project we know. She has changed the attitudes of thousands, perhaps millions, through the internet and documentaries. Her death is a tragedy. There is so much more we all could have learned.
The BBC reported that Rogers has spent the past 45 years studying black bears, and he has habituated them to his presence.