Hope is dead, hunter confirms

Hope was killed by a hunter who didn't recognize her.
Hope was killed by a hunter who didn't recognize her.

Hope, the black bear whose live birth online captured animal lovers' hearts, has died by the hands of a Minnesota hunter.

Hope, daughter of internet celebrity bear Lily, had been missing for some time, and researcher Lynn Rogers feared she might have perished. Rogers' suspicions grew after the hunter he contacted wouldn't give him a straight answer about Hope's fate.

According to a Facebook page maintained for Lily the Black Bear, Hope was shot September 16 after she wandered into the hunter's bait. The hunter responsible wouldn't have shot Hope if he'd recognized her, and Rogers' team says the hunter has cooperated with them in the past.

The Wildlife Research Institute has mourned Hope's loss, but says it doesn't want people to turn their grief on the hunter responsible for Hope's death.

According to the posting, the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources had not been able to confirm if Hope was alive or dead, but -- after media attention turned to Hope's disappearance -- the hunter contacted the team this morning to confirm he'd shot Hope.

The statement doesn't give away the hunter's name, and calls for a bit of forgiveness in the hunter's name:

Please respect our desire to keep the hunter's name confidential. Attacks on him or hunters in general will only serve to undermine our potential for future research and education. We will provide another update later today with additional information.

Please be kind and supportive to each other as we all work through this.

In another message posted to the WRI website, the researchers said they'd received an outpouring of emotion from fans of Lily and her cubs. The WRI defends the practice of bear hunting, and argues that a well-regulated bear hunting season is better than the old days, when a bounty on black bears encouraged hunters to bring in as many carcasses as possible.

"Nevertheless," the statement goes on, "there are problems."

Killing radio-collared bears. Killing mothers with cubs (we have been getting calls daily about orphaned cubs). But overall, things are much better for bears now. You hear much less of landowners gut-shooting bears anymore, and that was a common practice back in the 60's and 70's. All we can do is keep working to show people what black bears are really like. The more people know about these basically timid animals, the more willing they become to coexist with them and let bear numbers climb.


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