There will be cubs! Definitely. Lily lifted a rear leg to scratch about 4 PM today, revealing a greatly swollen vulva—bigger than when we checked her at the den on January 8th.
We remember her shockingly swollen vulva of January 15, 2010, followed by a 7-day wait for Hope. Are the cubs a week away? Will she have them on Hope’s birthday? or maybe on Sue’s birthday the 20th? Every change in breathing at this stage has us wondering if labor is starting.
Just before 11 AM this morning, Sue noticed Lily was taking deep breaths at twice her normal resting rate. This continued for nearly 15 minutes. We waited anxiously, but all has been quiet in the den. In fact, Lily has hardly moved. She lifted her head a couple times, and lifted a leg to scratch, but she is lying in the same position she was early this morning.
Hope makes us worry. She is so constantly at Lily’s nipples. Even when they were in the same position for hours today, Hope had her face at Lily’s nipples. When Lily moved a leg and Hope lost her position, she groaned until Lily let her back. Lily was slow to accommodate. We wondered if she was cutting Hope off in preparation for birth. No such luck.
We are pulling for the new cubs. We want them to get the colostrum and plenty of milk. We want Lily to give them preference. They will need it.
But why are we pulling for anything? We are supposed to be simple reporters at this point, just reporting what happens.
We also wonder how quickly everything will happen. Will labor be shorter than the 22+ hours of January 21-22, 2010? How much time will elapse between the births of multiple cubs, if there is more than one this time? We suspect that a zookeeper might have witnessed bear births, but we haven’t seen it described anywhere. We don’t know of anyone who has witnessed it in the wild.
What will Hope do during labor? Will Lily make her get out of the way and stop trying to nurse?
Beth Jett said she saw ‘Bearwalker of the Northwoods’ on Animal Planet in Alabama last night. Maybe it’s in re-runs now. Beth was the anchor we all used to watch on Fox 21 News here. Their website used to crash with every Lily and Hope newscast—thanks to all of us. Beth is now the anchor of a station in Alabama and still doing her part for Lily and Hope. She wants to put links to the Den Cam on the station’s website there. Shhh… don’t tell them that it could crash their website.
Lots of emails from the Educational Outreach Group today as they continue to work behind the scenes.
As we wait on Lily, thank you for all you are doing.
—Lynn Rogers and Sue Mansfield, Biologists, Wildlife Research Institute and North American Bear Center