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BEAR CUB UPDATE: Still no sign of Hope

DULUTH Hope, the Internet-famous black bear cub, was still missing in the woods west of Ely, Minn., this morning despite an overnight search using a heat-sensing, night tracking device. Lynn Rogers and Sue Mansfield, the Ely researchers who are l...

Lily searches for her cub
Lily sniffs Monday for signs of her cub, Hope. Submitted photo

DULUTH

Hope, the Internet-famous black bear cub, was still missing in the woods west of Ely, Minn., this morning despite an overnight search using a heat-sensing, night tracking device.

Lynn Rogers and Sue Mansfield, the Ely researchers who are looking for the cub, are weighing options on how to proceed.

"My emotions are all over the place. We need to sit down and figure out what we should do, or can do, now," Rogers said this morning. "But we'll keep looking."

A small cub was reportedly spotted near a home Tuesday afternoon within 200 yards of where Hope was last seen in a tree.

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Rogers said the sighting is credible and that the lone cub was mostly likely Hope. But he said efforts to lure the cub with food and to search for the bear high in pine trees were unsuccessful, even with the help of the night tracking device donated by the St. Louis County Rescue Squad.

Rogers said he and others associated with the research effort in Eagles Nest Township will continue looking for Hope today. He also will contact Minnesota Department of Natural Resources wildlife officials to determine what options they suggest and would approve.

Meanwhile Lily, Hope's mother, now is more than three miles away from where the cub is and may already have lost interest in Hope.

"Her hormones may already be changing. The longer she is without the cub, the more likely she is to come back into heat and mate for new cubs," Rogers said.

The cub faces several perils, including black bear bores, wolves, dogs, collisions with vehicles and starvation. Cubs usually stay with their mother more than one year, and it's unlikely Hope would survive long on its own unless it finds food and refuge.

Hope's birth over the winter was followed by millions of people through a camera set up by Rogers and Mansfield, believed to be the first such wild bear event captured on a Webcam and seen in real-time by viewers worldwide. The bears have become celebrities, with nearly 97,000 followers on Facebook. Hundreds of those people are posting their hopes and concerns about Hope minute by minute every day.

Lily and Hope were together through Friday, and were resting in a large red pine when last seen by the researchers Friday evening. Lily wears a large collar with both GPS and radio tracking signals, but Hope is too small to wear a collar. Rogers and Mansfield are able to follow Lily just about anywhere, with the bear tolerating the researchers without much concern.

For reasons unclear to researchers, Lily climbed down from the tree, leaving Hope behind, and quickly covered more than two miles through the woods. Rogers believes she was either chasing or being chased by a rival bear.

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By the time Lily and researchers returned, 50 hours later, Hope was gone from the tree. And heavy rain washed away any scent. Lily looked for her cub for a couple of hours, then moved on. Rogers said if the sow is convinced she lost her cub, she may not accept it back even if it's found, as her body will be programmed for the next round of mating and cubs.

There has been so sign of the cub except for the homeowners who say the cub ran from their yard when the approached at about 3 p.m. Tuesday.

Because Rogers' and Mansfield's research is done under a permit from the DNR, an agency that Rogers has butted heads with in the past, it's not clear what the agency will allow him to do. Roger's research, which is unorthodox because he essentially befriends bears to walk with and study their actions, has come under fire as lacking scientific value.

Rogers defends his actions, however, saying his work is proving black bears are mostly docile animals that humans should appreciate and not fear.

The Duluth News Tribune and the Herald are Forum Communications Co. newspapers.

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