Jason the bear cub dies, DNR confiscates body from researcher Lynn Rogers

Jason the black bear cub was born live via webcam to his mother, internet sensation Lily, this past January. Now, word has come that the little guy died alone at the base of a tree in Ely.

While it's not uncommon for cubs to die early on, bear researcher Lynn Rogers is puzzled as to why the Department of Natural Resources confiscated the body from him before he could complete an autopsy.

"Who knows?" Rogers says of the DNR's actions. "It's just interference with us, science and the thousands of people that want to know."

Lily the Bear, not unlike the recent Bald Eagle nest phenom, crashed servers when she was shown in her den giving birth live last year. Tens of thousands of viewers watched her give birth to Hope. Then, almost exactly a year later, she had two cubs -- Faith and Jason.

Faith, Rogers says, was always stronger than Jason, though the pair were roughly the same size. While Faith learned to scale trees early on, Jason was lucky if he could make it up a couple feet. While Faith was content trotting briskly behind Lily, Jason often hung behind crying for Lily to come back.

That became a serious problem as the bear's den began flooding early this month. It appeared to Rogers that Lily wanted to lead her cubs to higher ground, but was being held back by Jason. Finally, over the weekend, Rogers and his team saw the bears had indeed moved to higher ground, to the base of a white pine. When he went to see the family, Faith scurried 25 feet up into the tree, while Jason clung just a few feet from the base, his eyes closed.

"The .42 mile trip must have been exhausting for him," says Rogers. "So we thought, 'Well, we hope he can nurse and recover at the base of the tree.' I don't think he ever nursed again."

While Faith and Lily moved off again, Jason was abandoned at the foot of the tree. Based on Lily's radio collar movements, Rogers thinks she was heading back to the tree to find him on Monday night, but got distracted by a fallen log filled with grubs. She was still a quarter mile away the next day when Rogers watched Jason convulse and go still.

Jason and his mom Lily
Jason and his mom Lily

Rogers collected the body and headed back to his lab, where he notified the game warden that the bear had died. He began a necropsy by removing the organs. In his early observations he says the tissue looked healthy, though the bear's stomach was completely empty. He also noticed an abrasion on Jason's head.

But before he could complete his work, a game warden came to collect the body. He left without the organs, and the DNR has stated that this is standard operating procedure, and they are doing their own necropsy.

"They can't do a proper necropsy without the innards," says Rogers. "We want answers. I want to get that carcass before the tissues deteriorate. I want to have good data, not questions."

The DNR also says Rogers has no salvage license. Rogers admits that but says in the past, he's always started his autopsies just after applying for the license, and never had problems so long as it eventually arrived. He says he did an autopsy in this fashion in 2008 on a bear cub that revealed a parasite never seen before in bears.

This afternoon, a spokesperson for the DNR said that Dr. Rogers will get the body back after a taxidermist and a DNR veterinarian finish their own necropsy in Virginia, Minn.

In the meantime, the internet is grieving over Jason. He even has an online memorial. Previous coverage:

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