Anticipation of the happy event — which could occur any day now — had already gained Lily the bear more than 18,000 friends on her Facebook page by Friday morning.
The project, undertaken with documentary maker Doug Hajicek, marks the culmination of Rogers’ years spent trying to get close to black bear in their native habitats.
Lily is the daughter of Rogers’ most trusting research subject – June – and he has watched her since her own birth. A BBC film about Rogers’ work last year, Bearwalker of the North Woods, showed the bear patting Rogers. “We have known Lily since she was a cub. When the litter was born I spent many hours with a videocamera to the entrance of her den.”
Lily is now three years old – the normal age for a bear to first give birth. But Rogers — who visited Lily in her den on January 11 and has been watching her on the webcam — says there are some suggestions she might be in the advanced stages of pregnancy.
“What I am seeing is a lot of re-arranging of the bedding, a lot of licking of her nipples and her genitals,” he said. “Yesterday she was intensely licking the bedding.”However, he was equally concerned about a pregnancy loss.
Whatever happens, years spent trying to gain Lily’s confidence means that it will likely be captured on the webcam.
The familiarity helped Rogers and Hajicek rig up equipment at the entrance to Lily’s den. “The camera is right here,” he said. “Between putting the big clunky camera in and the cameraman standing behind me, it scared Lily. She got up and left the den.”
The pair moved away, and Lily eventually returned. “Another bear would have left the den and taken off through the woods,” Rogers said.
He said he hopes the publicity will help cure the public of their distrust of black bears. “A lot of people are falling in love with her.”