The black bear cub made famous last winter when a video camera recorded its birth near Ely and which went missing over the weekend may have been spotted this afternoon by the public.
Hope, the cub of Lily that was followed by millions of people through a camera set up by bear researchers Lynn Rogers and Sue Mansfield in Ely, has been missing since Friday, Rogers said.
But a homeowner near a tree where Hope was last seen reported seeing a small, lone cub in their yard Monday afternoon. The cub ran into the woods when approached.
"We think it's her, but we don't know yet," Rogers said via his cell phone from the woods near Ely.
Rogers and others were nearing the spot this afternoon, hoping to find Hope hiding in a white pine.
"There's no reason to believe there would be another cub alone out there," Rogers said. "If we find it, we'll try to lure her down with some condensed milk and see if we can't get her back with Lily."
Meanwhile, Lily the mother bear was nearly three miles away, having given up her search for her cub Sunday and moved along her way.
Hope hasn't been seen since Friday, when she and Lily climbed a red pine to rest after a two-mile walk, Rogers said. Later Friday evening, Lily wandered more than two miles away, possibly chasing or being chased by a rival adult bear. By the time she returned Sunday, 50 hours later, Hope was gone and rain had erased any scent.
"We don't know what happened -- Lily spent the spring in very small areas, maybe 50 to 100 yards in diameter. It was hard to believe she was getting enough food -- she finally left, we think to find better food, and took Hope two miles away," Rogers said. "The last time Sue saw Lily and Hope together, about 6 p.m. Friday, they were both up a tree sleeping after the long walk."
It took Lily until Sunday to get back to the red pine where she left Hope. But Hope was not in the area.
Lily is fitted with a collar that holds a GPS tracking unit so researchers can track and find her at any time. The cub, however, is too small to carry a collar.
Rogers, staff from the North American Bear Center and volunteers searched, as did Lily. But there had been no sign of Hope anywhere in the area. And Rogers had all but resigned himself that the cub had perished.
That was until this afternoon.
Hope was born on Jan. 22 and left the den with Lily in late March after being watched for weeks by millions of people on the live Webcam placed in their meager den. It's believed to be the first for a wild black bear birth in a den. Mansfield has continued to video the sow and cub since then, and she and Rogers often meet up with and spend time with the bears in the woods.
The videos and reports can be seen at www.bear.org.
Cathy Williamson of Brook, Ind., who last winter won a contest sponsored by Cub Foods to name Lily's bear cub, echoed hundreds of messages left on Lily's Facebook page this week.
"Lily and Hope have been an inspiration for so many people and now apparently a terrible lesson in life as well," Williamson told the News Tribune. "No matter what the outcome, little Hope will always be my shining star as well as many others' shining star. She has done things for people better than any doctor could ever have done. I still try to be positive about this, but I think I know the outcome as well, either way there was Hope and there will always be Hope for all involved."