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).