Searching for Hope
Lily searched for Hope a couple hours last evening without success. The rain yesterday might have washed away too much scent for Lily to track her. Now, with torrential rain overnight, Lily seems to have given up. She is cruising and foraging up to three-quarters of a mile away, her breasts hard with milk. It is nearly 3 days since the two were together.
We spent today looking expectantly up trees and scanning the forest floor for a dark shape. Nothing. We started at the red pine and circled outward. A hundred yards away is a well traveled dirt road--the road where Sue parked that first night when she couldn't sleep and drove to the spot to listen for any cry. Across that road is where Sue heard rustling and claws on bark that night.
That side of the road is all private land with driveways to cabins on the lake. Property owners we talked with knew the Lily and Hope story and had not seen or heard anything. They gave us permission to search. We methodically searched between the road and the lake. We searched the area where we saw Lily searching last night--and beyond. The forest floor there is mostly conifer needles with no plants, so it was easy to scan for a dark shape.
We talked to people who walk their dogs on the road. They haven't seen or heard anything.
Hope could still be alive, but seeing Lily give up and not return to the spot has us thinking the worst. Did she find Hope dead last night? Was there not enough scent for her to track Hope? Did the ill-timed rain kill Lily's chances of finding her? In our waking hours overnight, like you, we felt joy that the morning would bring good news. The emotional roller-coaster continues. Although we haven't completely given up hope, mainly want closure.
We're also thinking about what might happen next. We remember when RC lost her first cub--also a single, also in May. She mated that same year. Her mating was unusual in that males continued to follow her into August--not just in May or June as is usual here. She produced 3 cubs.
Thank you for your support and understanding.
--Lynn Rogers and Sue Mansfield, Biologists, North American Bear Center
From the North American Bear Center website