This past Sunday (January 22), online viewers all over the world were given the opportunity to witness something not many humans have gotten the opportunity to do before. Deep within her den in the woods of Ely, Minnesota, momma-bear-to-be, 3-year-old black bear Jewel gave birth to at least two bear cubs in front of a live online audience. Researchers at the Wildlife Research Institute have been installing webcams into bears’ dens in the area in order to give viewers everywhere a better insight into a very important and private aspect of the animal’s lives.
This video comes as part of series involving the bears of Minnesota, who are no strangers to the cameras and have been followed by classrooms, fans, and researchers alike. The idea behind this closer look is to help spread knowledge about the animals and to teach the public that the animals are not to be feared but rather cherished and protected. And it has worked. Public opinion has been growing in favor of these animals as their exposure increases. “People who were afraid to visit the area because of their fear of bears now come to visit in hopes of seeing bears,” explains Lynn Rodgers of the WRI and its affiliate, North American Bear Institute.
Jewel’s labor, which was recorded both by video and in written summary on the WRI website, first caught the attention of Den-Watchers (poised to keep an eye out on all den activities) who gave the signal that all was set to go for Jewel and her little ones on the way. After a restless attempt at sleep, the show was on the road. According to the site, “For the first 20 mins she seemed very restless, grooming and pushing. Then she made the sweet grunting noises as or just before the cub was born as if she was welcoming it into the world—so moving!!” For the time being, it is unclear whether Jewel gave birth to two or three cubs, since the camera angle has made it hard to know with certainty.
As was mentioned, this is not the first time that Jewel and her family have been covered by webcams. Jewel happens to be the younger sister of Lily, who was first to give birth on camera to her cub, Hope, in 2010 (incidentally, sharing the same birthdate). Hope, as you may remember was the bear who stirred up controversy last year when she was shot and killed by a hunter not far from her home. Because of this, many Hope supporters and bear lovers petitioned to criminalize the killing of radio-collared bears living in the Minnesota forests.
And like Hope, Lily and her young cubs have much to look forward to as their popularity spreads both at home and across the country. “Over 500 schools are following this bear family and watching along with us. What we do for science is having huge benefits for education. People are watching in 98 countries and developing a whole different attitude about bears and their willingness to share the land with them,” said Rodgers. Already, Lily has over 138,000 followers on Facebook…and if that is any indication, viewers will be sure to stay tuned.
Photo Credit: upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/thumb/0/02/Black_bear_large.jpg/412px-Black_bear_large.jpg