Lily the Internet-famous black bear near Ely still is with her cub, Hope, but also might be pregnant again.
Researchers Lynn Rogers and Sue Mansfield say Lily is showing signs of being pregnant, including swollen reproductive organs and recently hanging around male bears.
It's unusual for a sow black bear to give birth two years in a row, but Lily and Hope's separation for many days earlier this summer might have spurred her body to go into estrus again.
It's possible that Lily could keep Hope with her when she dens up again this fall and then give birth to new cubs over the winter, meaning a large and extended family in the den. But Lily could separate from Hope again even before going into the den.
"We'll all learn whether Lily and Hope den together in less than two months," Rogers and Mansfield posted in an update on their website, www.bear.org. "We'll learn whether Lily will give birth in about five months."
Lily and Hope became famous over the winter when hundreds of thousands of people watched a live Web camera that showed their den. Rogers hopes to place a camera in Lily's den again this winter and, with the help of electronics experts, develop remote video cameras that would allow similar cameras to be placed in several research bear dens even if they are not near electricity or a phone line.
Lily and Hope now have more than 112,000 fans on Facebook, though Rogers'
effort to feed and befriend bears in the area have drawn criticisms from state wildlife officials and some local residents.
Meanwhile, researchers and volunteers are working to post signs near their research bears asking hunters not to shoot collared bears. They are working to fit each bear that carries a radio transmitter collar with bright "gaudy" ribbons in hopes that hunters will not shoot them.
The Minnesota Department of Natural Resources has asked that hunters not shoot the collared bears in the area but has stopped short of making it illegal. Some of Rogers' longtime research bears have been shot over the past 20 years.
Rogers said he's expecting cooperation this season.
Local "hunting guides will be asking their hunters not to shoot radio-collared bears, backing up our request and the DNR's request to spare radio-collared bears," he said.
Hunters started placing bait in the woods on Friday in preparation for bear hunting season that starts Sept. 1.