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Bear cub made famous by webcam goes missing, feared dead

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The black bear cub made famous last winter when a video camera recorded its birth near Ely has gone missing and is feared dead.

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.

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"No word, nothing yet," Rogers told the Duluth News Tribune today. "There are 97,000 Facebook fans of Lily and Hope feeling really bad right now."

Lily has a radio and GPS collar on, but the cub is not with the mother.

The cub was too small to fit with a transmitter collar, Rogers said.

"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. ... But she finally left, we think to find better food, and took Hope two miles away," Rogers said. "The last time we saw Lily and Hope together, about 6 p.m. Friday, they were both up a tree sleeping after the long walk."

Lily came down from the old red pine and walked off calmly, Rogers said, but was later recorded on GPS walking very fast away from the tree.

"Either being chased by another bear or chasing another bear are possibilities," Rogers said.

It took Lily until Sunday to get back to the red pine where she left Hope behind. But Hope was not in the area.

"She was gone about 50 hours, and it had rained in the meantime, so there was no scent. Lily spent about two hours searching around the tree and then gave up," Rogers said. "Some cubs have lasted up to four days with the mother gone and it turned out OK. But we searched (Monday) very diligently and we didn't find anything. We looked at thousands of trees, and nothing."

Rogers said the chances are "pretty slim" that Hope will be found alive.

"The tree wasn't that far from a road where people walk their dogs, and there are cabins on the other side of the road, and no one has heard anything," he said.

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, believed to be the first for a wild bear birth in a den. Mansfield has continued to video sow and cub since then. The videos can be seen at bear.org.

Roger said he hopes they find some sign that will let them determine what happened. Rogers said if Hope is not found, Lily likely will go back into heat this year, mate and have another litter of cubs over the winter.

"I have to get my own emotions in check now before I can face all the other people who have become so close to Lily and Hope," Rogers said. "But I want to find something that will be conclusive so we can stop wondering."

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