Welcome To The World, Little ‘Un(s?)

On January 22, 2010, in Nature, by Meghan

American black bears number in the hundreds of thousands in North America. In some parts of Alaska and western Canada, black bears are so common that folks don’t much blink eyes at them. However, I’m certain that it’s supremely (As in, has it ever happened before? I’m uncertain.) uncommon for humans to witness the birth of a wild black bear.

There are a couple of reasons why observing such would be a challenge:

1. To start, the American Black Bear spends a portion of the inclement weather months denning. To den is to find a place out of the elements and sleep off the days, months. In the harshest of climes, bear will do this for 4, 5, or 6 months, never leaving said dens, not even for food, water, or to poop! In denning, bears lower their body temperature and respiration rate to the point that it is metabolically more efficient to rest away a winter without sustenance than to have to forage when it’s cold and there’s a lot of snow.

2. Female black bears give birth whilst inside their dens and, gosh-dang-it, they’re half asleep when they do so! When born, newborn cubs are about the size and weight of a can of soup (Not even the big cans, just a regular eight ounce-er!). Bears nurse their young in this same restful state until spring, when the world outside of the den is more conducive to easier living.

Some folks up in northern Minnesota got wise and installed a webcam inside of a pregnant female black bear’s den (How they did that must be a fascinating story!).

The bear’s name is Lily the Black Bear, and here’s her den (By the way, Lily has a Facebook fan page, and this photo is from there!):

The entrance to Lily the Black Bear's den (from!/photo.php?pid=4990300&id=263755115498&ref=fbx_album)

Since January 8th, you could watch live, 24 hours a day, as Lily the black bear denned. Life was low key for her, as she was pretty much unmoving and unconscious. Things got interesting this morning because Lily gave birth, and it was recorded by the webcam. Here is the video of her big moment:

Turns out, folks who watched the scene unfold don’t yet know how many cubs popped out. So, you’ll have to stay tuned to Lily’s webcam to see how she and her young one(s?) is/are doing.

I’ve had the webcam going for about two hours now, and I’ve been watching Lily sleep and breathe. She probably has her warm, furry, fat body wrapped around her cub(s?) to keep it/them warm. Every now and then, you hear a little squeaking or moaning, what must be the vocalization of a cub.

A bit ago, a couple of canids, coyotes or wolves I suppose, barked, yipped, and howled from somewhere outside the den. Lily didn’t even flinch, seemingly unconcerned inside the safety of her den. However, Junebug the Border Collie woke up from a nap, walked right over to the computer with her head tipping back and forth in earnest listening, and gave a single, low-pitched woof back at those Minnesotan canids. The verdict is in inside this household, as Junebug and I are both pretty fascinated by the opportunity to see and hear the first hours and days of a little wild black bear’s life.

Cooler than that, though, is the fact that the world is falling in love with Lily; she right now has more than 53,000 Facebook fans and 8,000 people watching her webcam. So, welcome to the world, little ‘un(s?), and thank you for this rare opportunity.

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5 Responses to “Welcome To The World, Little ‘Un(s?)”

  1. JeffO says:

    That is the COOLEST THING!!! Thanks for tipping us off!

  2. Kel says:

    Very cool indeed!

    I found your blog through another runners blog.

    I had the opportunity to visit (and enter) occupied black bear dens almost 20 years ago with the same researcher who is doing this stuff with Lily. Just posted about it on my own blog, if you're interested.

  3. Gretchen says:

    Wow!! I'm definitely adding myself as a fan of Lily's. 🙂 How beautiful.

  4. Meghan says:

    JeffO- Super cool!

    Kel- I, too, have had the very lucky experience of visiting a few black bear dens to help researching friends. They were life-changing, special experiences, no doubt. Very awesome that you got to work with this very same research team!

    Gretchen- Yippeee!

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