Lily the black bear gives birth near Ely -- watch bear-cam footage
Lynn Rogers has been walking with, talking to and studying bears for 43 years, but he had never seen bear cubs being born -- until today.
Click here to watch a video of one of the cubs being born.
Rogers, the flamboyant and sometimes controversial Ely bear researcher, is huddled with his co-researchers at a cabin watching a computer screen four miles from the den where Lily the mother bear this morning gave birth.
After a false alarm just before 11 a.m., Rogers said he and others definitely heard a cub at 11:38 a.m.
"She was making mother grunts and then we heard the cub squawk, so it's definite,'' Rogers said, although the cub still hadn't positioned itself to be in the view of the camera.
Rogers said 16,736 people were watching online at 11 a.m. at www.bear.org to see what could be a first-ever live video bear birth. The site has had more than 100,000 views per day this week after the den camera received worldwide media attention.
It's not clear how long it might take for a second cub to come out, if there are two.
"We're watching with everyone else... we're all learning from the bear. No one has seen this before," Rogers said before the birth. "You'll probably see it when we do."
After the cub or cubs are born they will crawl up their mother's stomach toward the warmth of her nipples.
Lily is one of Rogers' many research bears that he befriends near Ely. The 3-year-old sow would most likely give birth to twins, as this is her first pregnancy. Having one cub the first time wouldn't be unusual, and many bears have three cubs yearly as they get older.
The location of Lily's den is being kept secret, but it's near a cabin so that videographers could run a cable from the den to a live electrical outlet. It's the first time one of Rogers' bears denned close enough to electricity to allow a den camera since 1999. That winter, the bear Whiteheart was thought to be pregnant, and a camera was placed in her den. But she never gave birth.
This time, Rogers was almost certain Lily is carrying a cub or two because of her swollen genitals and her actions. On Thursday, she left the cave-like den, disrupting her hibernation, to collect pine boughs to line the nursery.
Rogers believes Lily went into labor Thursday afternoon, and researchers watching overnight said she had several violent contractions.
Rogers is the force behind the fledgling North American Bear Center in Ely, a research, advocacy and tourism nonprofit that promotes black bear awareness. He often places collars on research bears without use of tranquilizing darts -- the bears simply allow him to put the collar on. Rogers has come under fire from some state wildlife experts because his research includes feeding bears. Some local residents and wildlife managers have complained that his efforts draw bears into the area that causes problems.