On September 16, two days after reportedly being missing, the world famous black bear, Hope, was deemed dead after wandering into a hunter’s bait station in northeastern Minnesota.
Hope had been filmed as part of research headed by Dr. Lynn Richards of the Wildlife Research Institute (WFI) in Ely, Minnesota. Since her mother, Lily, gave birth to her on January 22, 2010, Hope and her family have maintained an audience of internet uses the world over in order to educate viewers on a wide variety of the everyday activities of a family of black bears. The goal has always been, ultimately, to bridge the gap between humans and bears and allow for a better understanding between the two species.
According to those at WFI, Hope went missing on September 14 after her mother and younger siblings were spotted returning from wandering into a hunter’s bait station—Hope was not with them. Not long after, Rogers was contacted by a hunter who claimed to have killed a female bear in the area. Since all other female bears known in the area were accounted for, Rogers knew it had to be the missing Hope.
Since her death, conservationists and fans alike have come out in droves to show their support for Lily and her family. “I’ve gotten calls today from several people who could hardly talk through their tears, but there’s also a lot of anger,” Rogers explains. “It’s a highly emotional item for the Lily fans.”
But with her death comes the question of the future safety of the bears. Currently, bear baiting is completely legal in Minnesota as a more humane way of hunting. (It goes that by baiting the bear, hunters are likelier to get a clearer shot and, in turn, avoid the possibility of critically injuring an animal and leaving it to die out in the middle of the woods.)
Yet while there are no legal repercussions for bait stations, Rogers still does not want hunters to shoot his bears: “It’s just one more instance of us being in the middle of a groundbreaking data set and having it cut short by a hunter killing a critical bear.”
As of now, the method of simply asking hunters not to kill the bears in the study (who are identified by brightly colored radio collars worn about the neck) has not worked. According to the WRI website, the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources has, for the past 10 year, requested that hunters not target their collared bears–and just during last fall 9 were killed.
WFI believes that the next step is to demand legislature that would criminalize the killing of collared bears. Although a small step on the road to protecting all bears, the hope is that the information the bears provide will help humans gain a better insight and respect for the animals.
Rogers laments, “This is probably the most famous bear in the world…[she] lived for 602 days and during that time [she] changes a lot of lives. [She] drew a lot of people together.”
We hope she still does.
To help protect collared bears of Minnesota, sign the petition here.
Photo Credit: t3.gstatic.com/images?q=tbn:ANd9GcSJeLxNJ9Ta5Oitld0KJRpCLvMNyJx4CjaF4IKcXucnzu6mdyYh