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Page last updated at 11:32 GMT, Tuesday, 26 January 2010
A wild black bear has given birth live on internet
By Matt Walker
Editor, Earth News

Black bear Lily filmed by webcam
Lily awaits the big day

A now-famous wild bear has successfully given birth to a cub, an event shown live on the internet.

Lily the black bear gave birth on Friday 22 January, and mother and offspring have spent the past few days acclimatising to each other.

The birth and subsequent behaviour of the bears is being streamed live via a webcam placed in the bear's den by biologist Professor Lynn Rogers.

This was the first live birth of a wild bear ever recorded.

Lily has become something of a celebrity in north America.

Her pregnancy has been covered by the media, and she has a Facebook page that has thousands of followers.

Black bear Lily sleeping in her den

"Lily has one job now, keeping her cub warm and fed

Prof Lynn Rogers

However, Professor Rogers has serious reasons to film Lily and her cub via the so-called "bearcam", not least because it should provide scientists with valuable new insights into bear behaviour.

Lily underwent a labour of almost 22 hours to give birth to a single cub.

Black bears usually produce one or two cubs in their first litter, and those living alongside Lily in the woods of northern Minnesota, US often give birth to three in subsequent litters.

Lily is now insulating her cub against the cold of a heavy snow fall last night, and appears to be successfully nursing it.

"Lily has one job now, keeping her cub warm and fed. Instead of exiting the den periodically, Lily will spend the next couple months hovering over the cub," says Professor Rogers.

Webcam star

Professor Rogers has spent the past 43 years studying black bears, and is regarded as a leading authority on their behaviour and ecology.

During that time, he has developed a special relationship with the bears he studies.

Rather than tranquilise the bears, he has habituated them to his presence, a technique which allowed him to approach Lily's den and set up the webcam.

Professor Rogers studies Lily's mother June in her own den

That trust allows Professor Rogers and his colleagues to develop a new understanding of wild black bear (Ursus americanus) behaviour, which was depicted by the BBC natural history programme Natural World: Bearwalker of the Northwoods.

In that programme, Professor Rogers mostly followed a black bear called June, who is now nine years old.

Lily, the star of the new webcam who is almost three years old, is June's daughter.

Black bears in North America will dig dens at anytime. But they typically mate in May or June.

However, bears are one of the few mammals that can delay the implantation of their fertilised eggs.

Black bear Lily
Black bear females typically produce cubs every two years
But when natural foods are scarce, it sometimes takes three or four years for mothers to build up enough body reserves to produce the next litter
Malnourished black bear females do not successfully reproduce
The record litter size is six, produced in Pennsylvania

So females often do not implant the eggs until November, when the egg then develops into a foetus.

During January the mother bears then tend to give birth to cubs weighing around 0.45 kg (1lb).

Eye opener

"Lily's den cam is the first time anyone in the world has had a live TV feed from a wild bear den," says BBC producer Dr Ted Oakes, who filmed a recent documentary about the bears studied by Professor Rogers.

After the birth, the cub is not likely to open its eyes for six weeks.

It will then stay close to the den, allowing viewers to follow the bear for the first few months of its life.

Professor Rogers first attempted to film a wild bear giving birth ten years ago. But that bear did not go on to have cubs.

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