Monday, 24 January 2011

Lily's cubs are born


At lunchtime on 21st January many people around the globe heard a squeal coming from Lily's den. A few hours later they heard the same thing. So it has been confirmed that cubs have been born but there still is confusion as to how many. The first reports said 2 but now there are reports that a 3rd and 4th came in.
A video of the birth(s) is posted at, see what you think.
Lily put everyone on alert on 20th Jan when she clenched her teeth at 5:08 PM.  Last year, teeth-clenching signaled the onset of labor, and Hope was born 21 hours and 39 minutes later.   This year, teeth-clenching to the birth at 1:51 PM on 21st Jan was 20 hours and 43 minutes.

However this year the Bear Centre had many more worries. At 12:30 AM on 20th Jan, Sue was awakened by a call from a Den Cam Team member in South Africa saying the Den Cam was down.  Several calls later, the Team decided someone had to snowmobile to the shed and fix something.  Sue awakened Lynn at 1:30 AM with that news.  But the temperature was near 40 below zero.  Preparations had to be perfect to avoid a calamity.  Lynn said to wait for first light despite the possibility of missing the births as the journey would be a very dangerous one.
After a dilemma as to who would be the person to brave these kind of conditions it was decided that it would be Jason as he was the youngest. By 9:15 AM, Jason had the video streaming again.
The next worry was whether Hope would disrupt the new litter by trying to nurse, letting in potentially lethal cold on these days of near record low temperatures. Everyone was surprised to hear Hope still suckling as Lily was bracing for delivery of the 1:51 PM cub. We also were surprised by how quiet Hope was during and after the delivery.
So the question is has she had more than two cubs? We know that there is at least two because video footage captured showed one cub nursing and one cub squawking. But at 11:29 PM Lily began the same insistent grunting that accompanied Hope’s birth last year and the births yesterday at 1:51 and 3:03 PM.  Could Lily give birth to a third cub more than 8 hours after the second?  We'll keep you posted. Also if you want to keep up with the daily diary from Lily's den then log onto
Emily Wallington

Wednesday, 19 January 2011

Is Lily in labour?

Well I guess the question on every ones mind is 'Is Lily going to have cubs'? The Bear Centre think definitely. On 16th Jan Lily lifted one of her legs to scratch and revealed a greatly swollen vulva - much bigger than even a week before.
On January 15th 2010 a glimpse was caught of her vulva and it was hugely swollen like today - she then gave birth to Hope 7 days later. This means the cubs are now only 4 days away. My prediction is 23rd January. Not only is that 4 days from now but it is Grahams birthday so it would be nice to be on that day.
Just before 11 AM on the morning of the 16th, Sue Mansfield from the Wildlife Research Institute and North American Bear Centre noticed Lily was taking deep breaths at twice her normal resting rate. This continued for nearly 15 minutes. They waited anxiously, but all has been quiet since then in the den. In fact, Lily has hardly moved. 
Since then Hope has become incredibly attached to Lily and wants to  nurse all the time. She was supposed to hibernate but instead all she wants is Lily's nipples and when she doesn't have them she is bawling for access.

How close can birth be?  With Hope doing what she is doing then there is fear that the cubs will be in for competition.  Let’s hope Lily can make a lot of milk and that Hope doesn’t hog all the nipples. We have so many questions about what is going to happen once Lily has given birth. For example can  Mixed-age litters survive?  What will Hope do during labor?  Will Lily make her get out of the way and stop trying to nurse?

Another question is to try and understand what Hope is getting when she sucks from Lily's nipples.
Could Lily be producing colostrum already?  The people from the Bear Centre could go out and check but it is likely that if she is Hope will have drained them already. Below is a quote from a former lactation consultant which sheds some light on what could be going on.
'As a former Lactation Consultant and longtime breastfeeding educator, I do know that colostrum, in humans, can be expressed well before giving birth. It sometimes leaks and crusts on the nipples.  Although breast milk composition differs among species, the biological mechanism is about the same.  I would imagine that colostrum is attracting Hope to the nipple.........that, and the fact that she was weaned abruptly during the separations from Lily.  —Joanne M. Schwab
So watch this space and hopefully next time you read this blog Lily will have had her cub(s).
Emily Wallington

Saturday, 8 January 2011

Lilly the Black Bear is back!

Many of you will remember Lily, a wild American black bear, who is part of the long-term study of black bear ecology and behavior being conducted by biologist Lynn Rogers of the Wildlife Research Institute near Ely, Minnesota. Last year WildEarth broadcast directly from Lilly's den whilst she was pregnant and hibernating. The birth of her lone female cub, Hope, was broadcast live to 25,000 viewers on January 22, 2010 . Hearts melted as Hope's tiny paw reached out to touch Lily's nose just after the birth.
Unfortunately, one cub was not enough to keep Lily from coming into estrus last spring. Lily abandoned Hope during the May mating season. Five days later, Hope was found - 2 miles from where she was abandoned - and reunited with Lily. However, by then, Lily's milk ducts were clogged and Hope became weak trying to keep up with Lily. Researchers stepped in and began feeding Hope a special formula. When Lily abandoned Hope a second time, no attempt was made to reunite them.
Researchers set up a feeding station to keep Hope alive in the wild until wild foods became available and she could forage on her own. They also placed a tiny radio-collar on Hope so they could monitor her movements. Hope thrived. Eventually Hope and Lily crossed paths and reunited on their own. They travelled and foraged together through the late summer and fall, and they denned together in late October.
American black bears normally give birth every 2 years, but Lily was seen with males during last spring's mating season and is likely pregnant. If she gives birth in mid-late January, we will have the rare opportunity of observing a mixed age litter - new cubs and a yearling from last year's litter. How will Hope react to new cubs?
Once again a camera has been placed in her den and we started WildEarth started broadcasting LIVE on December 30th. Bill Powers and his Pix Controller team provided the equipment and have put a camera outside of the den this time as well that can pan,tilt and zoom. This will be excellent to see whats going on outside and also when Lily starts to go out and about. Only one camera will be streaming at a time, and these cameras can be selected and remotely controlled by members of the Bear Center or PixController, Inc. Engineers.
To learn more about bears and this bear research visit the North American Bear Center and the Wildlife Research Institute at